When used in combination, two targeted therapies significantly inhibit tumor growth in gastric cancer, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research (2010 Mar 1;16(5):1509-19).

For the study, Zev Wainberg, MD,  and colleagues from UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, used cell lines and animal models with amplified levels of HER2 to evaluate the effect of Herceptin (trastuzumab, Genetech) and Tykerb (lapatinib, GlaxoSmithKline) on gastric cancers.

Researchers found that the combination of Herceptin and Tykerb was highly synergistic in inhibiting cell growth in a subset of gastric cancers. Additionally, in vivo studies showed that the combination therapy had greater anti-tumor efficacy than either drug alone.

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The authors explained that Herceptin blocks growth signals on the cancer cell’s surface, while Tykerb works from inside the cell to block the signaling that results in cancer cells’ out-of-control growth.

“This study adds further support to the concept that if you target a specific gene in gastric cancer, a more tailored treatment approach can be considered,” Dr. Wainberg stated. “This study also provides further proof to what we already know – that is that gastric cancer is ripe for the development of targeted therapies.”