Her2 Breast Cancer Support Group


Introduction to breast cancer
Breast cancer is a malignant (cancerous) cancer that develops from the cells of the breast. The female breast is made up primarily of:

·                     lobules (milk-producing glands)

·                     ducts (milk passages that connect the lobules to the nipple), and 

·                     stroma (fatty tissue and connective tissue surrounding the ducts and lobules, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels).

Most breast cancers begin in the ducts (ductal), some in the lobules (lobular), and the rest in other remaining tissues.

Breast cancer is not just one disease, but many different diseases. Certain breast cancers can act differently due to individual genetic makeup.  Breast cancers can be categorised as being either HER2-positive or HER2-negative.


History of HER2

In the 1970s, researchers began using the new tools of molecular biology to find the genes that trigger various cancers. One scientist discovered a gene, called HER2/neu, or HER2, that directed the production of a protein that seemed to cause cancer in mice.

Then in the late 1980s, researcher Dr. Dennis Slamon showed that the aggressiveness of certain kinds of breast cancers was linked to how many copies of the HER2 gene they had. Breast cancers with the most copies of the HER2 gene spread the fastest. These tumors produced the most HER2 proteins, also called HER2 receptors.

What is HER2?
HER2 stands for Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2.  You may hear oncologists or breast cancer surgeons refer to this as HER2/neu.  This is another name for HER2-positive breast cancer.

HER2 is a protein found on the surface of breast cells.  This protein helps to regulate the cell growth.  However, when the HER2 protein is altered, extra HER2 protein may be produced. This causes the growth of the cells to increase which often results in more aggressive breast cancer cells being produced.

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