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Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) receptor tyrosine kinase is overexpressed in 20–30% of breast cancers and is associated with poor prognosis and worse overall patient survival. Most women with HER2-positive breast cancer receive neoadjuvant chemotherapy plus HER2-targeted therapies. The development of HER2-directed therapeutics is an important advancement in targeting invasive breast cancer. Despite the efficacy of anti-HER2 monoclonal antibodies, they are still being combined with adjuvant chemotherapy to improve overall patient outcomes. Recently, significant progress has been made towards the development of a class of therapeutics known as antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), which leverage the high specificity of HER2-targeted monoclonal antibodies with the potent cytotoxic effects of various small molecules, such as tubulin inhibitors and topoisomerase inhibitors. To date, two HER2-targeting ADCs have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer: Ado-trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1; Kadcyla®) and fam-trastuzumab deruxtecan-nxki (T-Dxd; Enhertu®). Kadcyla and Enhertu are approved for use as a second-line treatment after trastuzumab-taxane-based therapy in patients with HER2-positive breast cancer. The success of ADCs in the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer provides novel therapeutic advancements in the management of the disease. In this review, we discuss the basic biology of HER2, its downstream signaling pathways, currently available anti-HER2 therapeutic modalities and their mechanisms of action, and the latest clinical and safety characteristics of ADCs used for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer.


HER2, antibody drug conjugate, ADC, T-DM1, Enhertu, trastuzumab, monoclonal antibody, breast cancer, therapeutics, cancer



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