Understanding the New Treatment Guidelines for HER2-Negative Breast Cancer

A new national guideline for the treatment of women with a type of advanced breast cancer known as HER2-negative disease balances state-of-the-art evidence with a need to tailor therapy to each patient’s circumstances and preferences.

Ann Partridge, MD, MPH
Ann Partridge, MD, MPH

The guideline, developed by a panel of experts convened by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), will help clarify the choices facing patients and physicians in treating one of the most common forms of breast cancer. Nearly 80 percent of advanced breast cancers are classified as HER2-negative, meaning the cancer cells do not have excess amounts of the HER2 protein and don’t respond to drugs that specifically target that protein.

“Many different treatments are available for this form of cancer. Our panel conducted a detailed review of studies that have examined the effectiveness of these therapies,” says the panel’s co-chair, Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, director of Adult Survivorship and a breast medical oncologist in the Breast Oncology Program at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “In many cases, there was no clear winner – no single chemotherapy agent that consistently outperformed the others. The decision on a course of therapy is one that patients and physicians should make together, taking into consideration prior therapies, side effects, other medical conditions, and patients’ preference.” The panel that developed the new guideline consisted of medical oncologists and breast cancer scientists.

The guideline is the latest in a series that ASCO is issuing for breast cancer treatment. These will serve as models of future guidelines for treating other forms of cancer.

“These guidelines are designed to assist patients and physicians, who face decisions every step of the way through cancer treatment,” Partridge remarks. “The guideline for HER2-negative breast cancer offers a systematic review combined with an expert consensus-based approach to treatment, with an emphasis not only on the efficacy of treatment but also on patients’ preferences and priorities.”

More details on the guidelines.