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Potential of afatinib in the treatment of patients with HER2-positive breast cancer

Authors Geuna E, Montemurro F, Aglietta M, Valabrega G

Received 24 May 2012

Accepted for publication 4 July 2012

Published 27 August 2012 Volume 2012:4 Pages 131—137


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Elena Geuna,1 Filippo Montemurro,2–4 Massimo Aglietta,1–3,5 Giorgio Valabrega1–3,5

Division of Medical Oncology, Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, Candiolo, Turin, 2Institute for Cancer Research, Candiolo, Turin, 3Foundation of Piedmont Oncology, Candiolo, Turin, 4Unit of Investigative Clinical Oncology, Candiolo, Turin, 5University Medical School of Turin, Turin, Italy

Abstract: In the absence of treatment, overexpression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) predicts a poor prognosis in breast cancer. In the last decade, monoclonal antibodies and small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors have significantly improved the outcome of HER2-positive breast cancer patients. However, tumor resistance and toxicities often limit the use of these therapies. For this reason, there is a compelling need for further investigation of new targeted therapies, such as afatinib, an oral irreversible pan inhibitor of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family. This compound covalently interacts with tyrosine kinase domains, which are deeply involved in signal transduction leading to cell proliferation and protection from apoptosis. Afatinib has been studied in several Phase I clinical trials in advanced solid tumors. These trials have shown encouraging clinical activity and manageable side effects when afatinib is used either as a single agent or in combination with chemotherapy, with cutaneous adverse events and diarrhea being the most frequently observed toxicities. This review will focus on afatinib’s clinical activity and will discuss ongoing clinical studies in HER2-positive breast cancer patients. In the scenario of the different HER2-targeted therapies, it will be important to define the best specific clinical and “molecular” setting for afatinib use, trying to identify predictors of resistance and response. Moreover, afatinib, which has the ability to cross the blood–brain barrier, could play a role in patients with brain metastases from breast cancer.

Keywords: afatinib, brain metastasis, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, metastatic breast cancer, monoclonal antibodies, small molecule kinase inhibitors

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