Simultaneous amplification of HER-2 (ERBB2) and topoisomerase IIalpha (TOP2A) genes—molecular basis for combination chemotherapy in cancer

Tero A H Järvinen, Edison T Liu
Current Cancer Drug Targets 2006, 6 (7): 579-602
The HER-2 (also known as ERBB2/ErbB2/c-erbB2/HER-2/neu) oncogene is the most frequently amplified oncogene in breast cancer and is also amplified in other forms of cancer. Beside its important role in tumor induction, growth and progression, HER-2 is also a target for new therapeutic approaches such as Herceptin (trastuzumab), a recombinant antibody designed to block signaling through the HER-2 receptor. In addition to Herceptin, which is in a wide clinical use for HER-2 amplified breast cancer, a number of various HER-2 directed immunological and genetic strategies, either targeting the HER-2 receptor, its signaling pathways or both HER-2 and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) simultaneously, have demonstrated promising pre-clinical activity in HER-2 amplified carcinomas. Moreover, the HER-2 amplicon is known to contain more than 30 genes with altered copy numbers that could be therapeutic targets for chemotherapy. The topoisomerase IIalpha gene, TOP2A, is located adjacent to the HER-2 oncogene at the chromosome location 17q12-q21 and is either amplified or deleted (with equal frequency) in a great majority of HER-2 amplified primary breast tumors and also in tumors without HER-2 amplification. Recent experimental as well as numerous, large, multi-center trials suggest that amplification (and/or deletion) of TOP2A may account for both sensitivity or resistance to commonly used cytotoxic drugs, i.e. topoII-inhibitors (anthracyclines etc.), depending on the specific genetic defect at the TOP2A locus. The understanding of HER-2 amplification and its role in the pathogenesis of cancer is expanding, and a number of therapeutic strategies targeting either the HER-2 or its signaling pathways in cancer therapy are being investigated. Combining HER-2 targeting therapies with conventional forms of cytotoxic chemotherapy, where additional diagnostic tests such as those ascertaining TOP2A status, may be helpful for the ideal selection of patients for the combination therapy of an HER-2 targeting drug together with a cytotoxic drug such as topoII-inhibitor especially in the case of TOP2A amplification.

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