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Roadblock Clears Path for Herceptin

Conquest - Summer 2011

Adding saracatinib shrinks resistant breast tumors

Siyuan Zhang, Ph.D. (left), instructor and first author 
on the paper that coupled saracatinib with Herceptin, 
works closely with mentor Dihua Yu, M.D., Ph.D.
Photo: Wyatt McSpadden

Breast cancer tumors take numerous paths to resist the targeted drug Herceptin®. But a single roadblock at a crucial crossroads may restore a tumor’s vulnerability to treatment.

Adding the drug saracatinib to Herceptin shrinks previously resistant tumors by cutting off at least five different molecular pathways, each of which can be resistant, says senior author Dihua Yu, M.D., Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology.

“Saracatinib didn’t work as a single agent, but very few drugs work by themselves against late-stage disease,” Yu says. “Our experiments confirmed its lack of efficacy as a sole treatment in Phase I and Phase II clinical trials against late-stage cancers. But combined with Herceptin, it works beautifully.”

Reported in the April 2011 edition of Nature Medicine.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center