Roche at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)

“Harnessing Breakthroughs, Targeting Cures”


“Harnessing Breakthroughs, Targeting Cures” is the theme for this year’s American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting, taking place 5 – 9 April.  AACR highlights the great progress being made by the translation of discoveries in the lab into ground breaking targeted treatments.  Abstracts cover a wide range of pathways and genetic changes involved in the transformation of a healthy cell to a cancerous one and importantly, how targeting these could be an effective approach to slow down the progression of cancer. Some of these may be the answer to stopping cancer completely.

Targeting HER2 is one such approach and an area that Roche and Genentech have dedicated 30 years to understanding.  

The HER2 gene produces a protein which plays a role in controlling how a healthy breast cell grows, divides and repairs itself.  However, when the HER2 gene is amplified it causes too many HER2 proteins to be produced, causing the cells to grow and divide rapidly. Approximately 1 in 5 people with breast cancer will have a form of the disease which is caused by the incorrect functioning of the HER2 gene. HER2-positive breast cancer, as it is known, is a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer which, left untreated, is associated with poorer chances of survival and faster disease progression than cancer that is not HER2-positive.

Over the past 30 years, much has been learnt about HER2 and its impact on breast cancer.  Several targeted therapies have been developed, and in many countries testing for HER2 over expression is a standard part of a breast cancer diagnosis. Based on this progress, patients diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer today can expect to live as long as patients with HER2-negative disease.

At Roche, we are proud of the role our scientists played in supporting this progress.  For example, Mark Sliwkowski, Distinguished Staff Scientist, was part of the team that demonstrated the impact of HER2 and its potential as a cancer treatment target. He continues to lead our HER2 focused research today.

“Over the past nearly 20+ years I have been very fortunate to be able to devote all my time and energy to the study of one system, a system which has been, and continues to be, extremely fascinating. Joining the HER2 programme was probably the best decision I could have made. Today the treatment paradigm is really changing and that is the biggest thing that can happen to you as a research scientist”.

The HER2 story is one of innovation and huge progress made for patients, but it is an unfinished story. We remain committed to following the science and continuing to look for answers. Answers that will help further slowdown or potentially stop this aggressive type of breast cancer completely.

Tags: Breast-cancer, Science