2015 Marks 30 Years Since the Discovery & Understanding of the HER2 Breast Cancer Gene

This World Cancer Day, the HER History Report Honours the Medical Advancements Made In Our Fight Against Breast Cancer & the Impact of These Discoveries on Physicians, Patients, and Their Supporters

MISSISSAUGA, ON, Feb. 4, 2015 /CNW/ - What a difference the years make.  There was a time when a breast cancer diagnosis meant that surgery followed by radiation was a woman's only hope of fighting her cancer.  This is because breast cancer was once commonly viewed as a single disease, requiring one treatment approach.

This singular approach to treating breast cancer often resulted in tough-to-manage side effects such as severe nausea, exhaustion, bone marrow toxicity and lengthy recoveries that made the treatments difficult treatments for many women to tolerate.  Over the past 30+ years, there have been major advancements that have changed a woman's experience with breast cancer.1 For example, the improved understanding of how hor­mones affect the growth of cancer cells led to the development of treatments for hormone-sensitive breast cancer. 

The discovery of the HER2 gene allowed scientists to better understand the role of HER2 within breast cancer cells, and then work to develop treatments that could target this specific gene. 

"This milestone offers us the opportunity to honour some of the most significant advancements in breast cancer history and to look back at the clinical research that sparked the development of the targeted breast cancer treatments we use today," says Dr. Christine Brezden-Masley, medical oncologist and head of the department of hematology/oncology at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and one of three HER History panel members. "Thirty years ago, for example, women with HER2-positive breast cancer succumbed to the disease quickly and with few options.  The targeted treatments we now have provide women with a better chance at living longer with their cancer.  What's even more promising is that research in the area of targeted treatments is still ongoing, with some very exciting prospects on the horizon."

To mark this milestone, the HER History Report provides a snapshot of where we've been, where we are, and where we're going in the fight against breast cancer.

What you can find in the Report:

  • HER STORY – The HER History Report highlights findings from the HER History Index, a new poll of Canadian women and breast cancer patients on their attitudes and perceptions of breast cancer over the past 30 years.
  • THE AGE OF DISCOVERY – Learn about how the discovery of hormone and genetic influences in breast cancer have made diagnostic testing a standard – and critical – practice in treating the disease.
  • IF IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S HER – Learn about how prevalent breast cancer is in Canada, despite the decline in overall deaths and what experts think about this trend.
  • HER FUTURE – What will the breast cancer landscape look like in five years? What about in 30 years? Experts share insights and exciting new research on the horizon.

What's more, an interactive tool has been developed to take you on a journey through time – looking at the breast cancer landscape yesterday, today and tomorrow.

To help share the word on this important history lesson, a plethora of interviews are available!

Interviews available with the following physicians who can speak to where we've been (how the discovery that breast cancer is not just one, singular disease has impacted treatment outcomes); where we are (what patients can do to feel more in control of their journey with their disease) and where we're going (what's in store over the next 30 years).

  • Dr. Christine Brezden-Masley, Head of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto
  • Dr. Nathaniel Bouganim, Medical Oncologist, Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal
  • Dr. Cristiano Ferrario, Medical Oncologist, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal
  • Dr. Jan-Willem Henning, Medical Oncologist, Tom Baker Cancer Center, Calgary

Interviews are also available with breast cancer patients from across the country in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s who can share their experiences with living with breast cancer, and for one patient, the difference in being diagnosed 25 years ago and again five years ago.

1 Breastcancer.org. "Breast Cancer Tests: Screening, Diagnosis, and Monitoring." Breastcancer.org. Retrieved from http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types.
2 Schechter A.L., et al. "The neu oncogene: an erb-B-related gene encoding a 185,000-Mr tumour antigen." Nature. 1984 Dec 6-12;312(5994):513-6.

SOURCE Roche Canada

For further information: For interviews please contact Jaclyn Crawford (jcrawford@environicspr.com, 416-969-2728); or Robbyn Walsh (rwalsh@environicspr.com, 416-969-2759) at Environics Communications.

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