HER2 targeting as a two-sided strategy for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment: Outlook and recent implications in nanomedical approaches

Miriam Colombo, Fabio Corsi, Diego Foschi, Elisa Mazzantini, Serena Mazzucchelli, Carlo Morasso, Emanuela Occhipinti, Laura Polito, Davide Prosperi, Silvia Ronchi, Paolo Verderio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At present, mammary carcinoma is the second most common type of malignant tumor in adult women after lung cancer, as more than one million women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Despite advances in diagnosis and treatment, which have resulted in a decrease in mortality in recent decades, breast cancer remains a major public health problem. One of the most significant unresolved clinical and scientific problems is the occurrence of resistance to clinical treatments and their toxicity (and how to predict, prevent and overcome them). However, the heterogeneity of human breast cancer in terms of genetic features, molecular profiles and clinical behavior represents a constraint obstructing the discovery of a solution to the disease. It is currently considered that the chances of success of therapy may increase if the tumor cells are selectively removed before they can evolve to their mature stages up to metastases production. Therefore, novel and more sensitive diagnostic tools are being developed, with the aim of improving the early and noninvasive detection of rising malignancies and the accuracy of tumor tissue localization. Meanwhile, there is an emerging use of targeted therapies in oncology, depending on the expression of specific proteins or genes present in tumor cells. Among the molecular targets considered for the treatment of breast cancer cells so far, we chose to focus on examples involving overexpression and/or gene amplification of "Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2" (HER2) protein. In current studies, various types of nanoparticles conjugated with the anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody, the so-called "trastuzumab", are investigated extensively due to promising results in biological and preclinical applications aimed at improving the treatment of breast cancer. In this paper, we present a critical review of the preparation and use of different kinds of trastuzumab-functionalized nanoparticles, with an emphasis on the therapeutic and diagnostic (theranostic) potential of this generation of hybrid nanoparticles, exploiting the multifaceted mechanisms of action of trastuzumab against malignant cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-165
Number of pages16
JournalPharmacological Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • Antibodies
  • Breast cancer
  • Growth factors
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanoparticles
  • Theranostic agents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Medicine(all)


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