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HER2-positive breast cancers are associated with a more aggressive disease and higher recurrence rates. Herceptin is an effective treatment for HER2-positive breast cancers, but ineffective against HER2-negative breast cancers. Whether patients can be treated with Herceptin is determined by tumour biopsies, but this method may not be adequate to detect heterogenerous HER2 expression in breast cancer tumours. Variations of HER2 expression across tumours and over time - during progression of breast cancer or during treatment - can also mean that treatment isn't as effective in some patients.
MARS spectral molecular CT is a new whole-body imaging technology that promises an opportunity to detect this variability non-invasively. This study is part of ongoing research that aims to detect HER2 in patient's tumours non-invasively, using this technology. Insights from this research would allow the HER2 status of patients to be monitored before and during treatment, which will enable clinicians to change treatment as needed.
Jaya was part of the University of Otago, Christchurch, Summer Studentship Programme in 2019/2020.