In breast cancer, early detection as well as new developments in therapeutic options has resulted in less patients presenting with metastatic disease. However, about one-third of women with early stage breast cancer will eventually develop metastatic disease. Furthermore, approximately 20-30% of patients with breast cancer have tumors that overexpress human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER-2), which is associated with an aggressive tumor phenotype and poor prognosis. The identification of the HER-2 protein led to the development of highly effective therapeutics directed at this receptor. Trastuzumab, a recombinant, humanized, monoclonal antibody that binds to the extracellular domain of the HER-2 protein, has shown significant clinical benefit in metastatic and early-stage HER-2-positive breast cancer. Since the cancer recurs after adjuvant therapy in some women, and metastatic breast cancer eventually develops resistance to trastuzumab, there is a need for alternative treatment modalities to block HER-2 signaling. One of these treatment options is lapatinib, an orally active small molecule that inhibits the tyrosine kinases of HER-2 and the epidermal growth factor receptor type 1 (EGFR). In this consensus statement current treatment options in metastatic and locally advanced disease are discussed with a special focus on lapatinib.
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