Decades ago I saw a patient with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumor was sent out for next-generation sequencing only to find a HER2 mutation. What to do? Had my patient come in today, we may have had other options.
that trastuzumab (Herceptin, Genentech), as assessed by HER2 overexpression or amplification, has been shown to have essentially no efficacy benefit in NSCLC alone or in combination with chemotherapy. In fact, a of gemcitabine-cisplatin with or without trastuzumab in HER2 mutation–positive NSCLC essentially showed no difference between gemcitabine-cisplatin or gemcitabine-cisplatin with trastuzumab.
NSCLC has become the poster child for targeted therapies. After all, NSCLC makes up about 85% of all lung cancer cases, some of which are driven by gene mutations or other genetic abnormalities like translocation, fusion, or amplification. Seven of these genetic alterations have Food and Drug Administration–approved targeted drugs: EGFR, ALK, ROS1, BRAF V6006, RET, KRAS, MET, and NTRK fusions. And, now we have a new one: HER2.
In August, the FDA granted(T-DXd) (Enhertu, Daiichi Sankyo) for the second-line treatment of NSCLC patients with HER alterations. T-DXd is a humanized anti-HER antibody linked to a topoisomerase 1 inhibitor. When given intravenously, the antibody portion of the molecule binds to cells with a mutated HER2 on the surface. is taken up by the cancer cell and the linker between the antibody and the chemotherapy drug is broken, so the drug will be delivered very specifically only to cancer cells that have a mutated HER2. In theory, they will only target cells with HER alterations and thus should have less toxicity.
Unlike other driver mutations, HER mutations are relatively rare. Roughly 3% of nonsquamous NSCLC tumors carry mutations in the HER2 gene, and they are associated with female sex, never-smokers, and a
Biomarker testing is obviously a must in these cases. The FDA-approved companion diagnostic tests to detect HER2 mutations: Life Companion tests, Technologies Corporation’s Oncomine Dx Target Test for use in lung tissue, and Guardant Health’s Guardant360 CDx for use on plasma samples. The agency notes that, if no mutation is detected in a plasma specimen, the tumor tissue should be tested.