trastuzumab, Herceptin (cont.)

Pharmacy Author:
Medical and Pharmacy Editor:

PRESCRIBED FOR: Trastuzumab is used to treat metastatic breast cancer or metastatic gastric or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma among patients who overexpress HER2. It may be used alone or combined with other chemotherapeutic drugs.

SIDE EFFECTS: The most common side effects of trastuzumab are:

  • diarrhea (25% of patients),
  • a prickling or burning sensation in the skin (9% of patients),
  • either an upper respiratory or a catheter-related infection (26% of patients),
  • increased cough (26% of patients),
  • nausea and vomiting (23-33% of patients),
  • rash (18% of patients), and
  • infusion-related side effects including mild to moderate chills and/or fever (40% of patients).

More patients experience these side effects when trastuzumab is given in combination with paclitaxel. Back pain may occur in 22% of patients receiving trastuzumab alone. More serious but less-common side effects may develop if trastuzumab is given with paclitaxel and other chemotherapeutic drugs, for example, cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) or doxorubicin (Rubex). Damage to the heart including congestive heart failure (CHF) or ventricular dysfunction may occur in 19% of patients receiving trastuzumab with another chemotherapeutic drug in contrast to 2% to 20% of patients receiving only one of the drugs. Trastuzumab also causes serious and fatal pulmonary toxicity.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/27/2015

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