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Gastric cancer is common worldwide, and while multiple therapeutic options exist, the prognosis remains poor. Tumors may overexpress HER2. While targeting HER2 with trastuzumab provides a survival benefit, options following progression are limited. Subsequent trials of HER2-targeted agents failed to improve outcomes. Recently, DESTINY-Gastric01 demonstrated a survival benefit utilizing the antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) trastuzumab deruxtecan in gastric cancer patients that progressed on trastuzumab. /The authors give background to gastric cancer/HER2 and discuss prognostic implications of HER2 overexpression. They also describe initial trials of anti-HER2 therapy, resistance mechanisms, and ADC development/optimization. Finally, the authors review DESTINY-Gastric01 and provide future perspectives. While the 2010 ToGA trial demonstrated efficacy of trastuzumab in HER2 positive gastric cancer, subsequent trials of HER2-directed therapy have disappointed. Downregulation of HER2 after trastuzumab may play a role; however, trastuzumab deruxtecan maintains some efficacy in low-level HER2 expressing tumors. The DESTINY-Gastric01 cohort was from South Korea/Japan; authors have reported differences in gastric cancer risk factors/physiology between Eastern and Western populations. DESTINY-Gastric02 will evaluate trastuzumab deruxtecan in Western patients to confirm generalizability. Pulmonary side effects are notable;physicians must be cognizant of overlapping toxicities with combination therapy.


James Kalmuk, Dan Rinder, Carl Heltzel, Albert Craig Lockhart. An overview of the preclinical discovery and development of trastuzumab deruxtecan: a novel gastric cancer therapeutic. Expert opinion on drug discovery. 2022 May;17(5):427-436

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PMID: 35426752

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