What is Herceptin (trastuzumab)

Herceptin was the first HER2-targeted therapy for breast cancer. It is a monoclonal antibody that binds to HER2 receptors present on the surface of HER2-positive tumour cells, blocking them from receiving growth signals and flagging them for destruction by the immune system.

In the United States, Europe and many other countries, Herceptin is approved in combination with chemotherapy for the adjuvant (post-surgery) treatment of HER2-positive early breast cancer, first-line treatment of advanced HER2-positive breast cancer and first-line treatment of advanced HER2-positive gastric cancer. In Europe and other countries, it is also approved in combination with chemotherapy for the neoadjuvant (pre-surgery) treatment of HER2-positive early breast cancer.

What This Drug Is Used For:

  • Trastuzumab is used to treat metastatic (spread) breast cancer.  It is effective against tumors that overexpress the HER2/neu protein.
  • As part of chemotherapy regimen for adjuvant treatment of lymph-node positive, HER2/neu protein positive breast cancer.
  • Treatment of gastric (stomach) cancer
  • It is not known whether or not trastuzumab may be effective in other cancers that may also have this HER-2/neu protein, including ovarian, colon, endometrial, lung, bladder, prostate, and salivary gland tumors.

Note:  If a drug has been approved for one use, physicians may elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it may be helpful.

How This Drug Is Given:

  • Trastuzumab is given through an infusion into vein (intravenous, IV).  The first dose is given over 90 minutes.  If well-tolerated subsequent maintenance doses may be given over 30 minutes.
  • The amount of trastuzumab that you will receive depends on many factors, including your height and weight, your general health or other health problems, and the type of cancer or condition being treated.  Your doctor will determine your dose and schedule.

Side Effects:

Important things to remember about the side effects of trastuzumab:

  • Most people do not experience all of the side effects listed.
  • Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset and duration.
  • Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after treatment is complete.
  • There are many options to help minimize or prevent side effects.
  • There is no relationship between the presence or severity of side effects and the effectiveness of the medication.
  • The side effects of trastuzumab and their severity depend on whether the drug is given in combination with other medications.  In other words, trastuzumab given in combination with other chemotherapy drugs may produce more severe side effects.


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