What is Gastric Cancer HER2-Positive?
HER2 gastric cancer refers to cases of stomach (gastric) cancer that have increased levels of protein called HER2. Gastric cancer begins with abnormal cells in any part of the stomach, usually closer to the esophagus. In healthy cells, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is responsible for the growth of cells. When present in cancer cells, HER2 causes them to grow at a much faster rate, leading to the spread and progression of cancer.
Cancers with increased levels of HER2 are known as HER2-positive cancer. Gastric cancer that tests positive for HER2 is also known as HER2+ gastric cancer or HER2-positive stomach cancer. It is estimated that nearly 20 percent of all gastric cancers have an overexpression of the HER2 protein. Drugs have been developed through clinical trials to target the HER2 proteins, which can be more effective at killing cancer cells than other standard treatments.
HER2-Positive Gastric Cancer Stage 4a
In stage 4, stomach cancer is also called advanced stomach cancer. At this stage, the cancer has spread through tissue, bloodstream, or lymph nodes to distant parts of the body. The cancer may be found in organs such as the lungs, liver, or distant lymph nodes. Stage 4a means the cancer has grown into nearby organs or tissues through the stomach wall. The cancer also might have spread to nearby lymph nodes, but not distant body parts.
What Are the Physical Symptoms of Gastric Cancer HER2 Positive?
The symptoms of cancer are not affected by the HER2 status. In gastric cancer, the symptoms patients experience can depend on where in the stomach the cancer is, but typically include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling bloated or full after eating small amounts of food
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
The above symptoms can be caused by other health issues, so make sure to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of these.
What is The Survival Rate of Gastric Cancer HER2-Positive?
The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, which was used by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), combines different factors to track the survival rates of gastric cancer and other cancer types. Instead of stage 1,2, 3, or 4, the gastric cancer survival rates are classified by localized, regional, or distant to define the rate of survival more accurately.
Localized gastric cancer is only located within the stomach and has not spread to the surrounding organs or tissues. Regional gastric cancer has spread beyond the stomach to nearby lymph nodes or structures. Distant gastric cancer has spread to distant organs or parts of the body such as the liver.
Gastric cancer survival rate for 5 years by stage according to SEER:
- Localized: 70 percent
- Regional: 32 percent
- Distant: 5 percent
- Unknown: 24 percent
Gastric cancer is the 15th most common cancer type in the United States, which includes 1.4 percent of all cancer cases. There were an estimated 26,500 new cases and 11,100 deaths in 2021 from gastric cancer.
Is HER2-Positive Gastric Cancer Curable?
HER2 gastric cancer treatment includes targeted drugs that can help patients with advanced cancer in combination with chemotherapy. This combination often leads to a higher survival rate in advanced HER2-positive gastric cancer than chemotherapy alone. Drugs that are used to treat gastric cancer that is HER2 positive include Trastuzumab and fam-trastuzumab deruxtecan.
Trastuzumab (Herceptin, others): This drug is a monoclonal antibody, which is an immune system protein made in a lab to target cancer cells with HER2 present. Side effects can be different for everyone but often include fatigue, nausea, consistent cough, headaches, and diarrhea. In rare cases, heart damage can occur, so doctors may perform tests to monitor your heart function.
Fam-trastuzumab deruxtecan (Enhertu): antibody-drug conjugate (ADC), which is a monoclonal antibody that is combined with a chemotherapy drug. In some cases, the drug can cause low blood cell counts, which may lead to infections and increased bleeding in some cases. Other side effects vary per individual but can include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, hair loss, and persistent fatigue.
What is The Life Expectancy for HER2-Positive Gastric Cancer?
The life expectancy of patients with HER2-positive gastric cancer depends on several factors in patients. Statistically, age and stage of disease are the most important factors in the life expectancy of gastric cancer patients. The median age in gastric cancer deaths is 71 and 66 percent of all deaths are in patients over the age of 65. Without considering the HER2 status in patients, the average 5-year survival rate of gastric cancer is 32 percent, but has steadily increased since the 1990’s. Therefore, HER2-positive gastric cancer will have a slightly lower survival rate than the overall survival rate for gastric cancer.
HER2-Positive Gastric Cancer Prognosis
The prognosis of cancer is a doctor’s best estimate of how the cancer will affect you and the expected response from treatment. Different factors are then used to develop a treatment plan that will have a predicted outcome. The earlier gastric cancer is caught, the more favorable the prognosis and survival rate will be.
HER2 status in cancer is associated with a decreased survival rate and increased likelihood of progression and metastases. However, with the development of targeted therapies for HER2, the quality of life and life expectancy can be increased in some patients.
Below are the percentage of cases by each SEER stage for gastric cancer:
- Localized: 28 percent
- Regional: 26 percent
- Distant: 36 percent
- Unknown: 10 percent
HER2-Positive Gastric Cancer Clinical Trials
HER2-positive clinical trials test the latest scientific advancements in HER2-Positive cancer treatment. Patients who choose to enroll in trials can receive cutting-edge treatment and high-quality care under the direction of scientists, doctors, and researchers. HER2-Positive cancer patients can gain access to promising drugs and innovative treatments long before they’re made available to the public.
Massive Bio’s Clinical Trial Matching System (CTMS) can help connect you with the HER2-positive clinical trial that is most suitable for your case. Using your medical records and our AI platform, more than 170 clinical algorithms find the clinical trials right for you, which include your location, cancer type, age, subtype, biomarkers, and more.