The anti-HER-2/neu antibody trastuzumab (Herceptin; Genentech, San Francisco, CA) interferes with DNA repair induced by cisplatin and, as a result, promotes cytotoxicity in HER-2/neu-overexpressing tumor target cells in a synergistic fashion. This effect of trastuzumab, termed receptor-enhanced chemosensitivity, is specific for HER-2/neu-overexpressing cells, having no effect on cells without overexpression. Based on these findings, we conducted phase I and II clinical trials of trastuzumab plus cisplatin to determine the toxicity, pharmacokinetics, response rate, and response duration of this combination in patients with HER-2/neu-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer who had demonstrated disease progression (chemoresistance) while on active chemotherapy just prior to study entry. In phase I, four of 15 patients had objective clinical responses, including one complete response of several years' duration. Of 37 assessable patients enrolled in phase II, nine (24.3%) had objective clinical responses and an additional nine had minor responses or stable disease. The median time to progression among the responders was 8.4 months. The toxicity profile reflected that expected from cisplatin alone, with no apparent increase in toxicity caused by the addition of trastuzumab. Moreover, the pharmacokinetics of trastuzumab were unaltered by coadministration of cisplatin. We conclude that the combination of trastuzumab and cisplatin results in response rates higher than that reported for either single agent alone. Such receptor-enhanced chemosensitivity offers a new approach to target overexpressed growth factor receptors in a variety of cancers, which will lead to new, biologically based therapeutic strategies for clinical intervention.
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