- What kind of drug is Herceptin (trastuzumab), and how does it work?
- What are the uses for Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
- What are the side effects of Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
- What are the serious side effects of Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
- Is Herceptin (trastuzumab) safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
- Which drugs or supplements interact with Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
- What is the dosage for Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
- What else should I know about Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
What kind of drug is Herceptin (trastuzumab), and how does it work?
- Herceptin is an intravenous drug that is part of a chemotherapy regimen that is used to prevent recurrence of breast cancer, and for the treatment breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast (metastasized).
- It belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies. Other monoclonal antibodies include rituximab (Rituxan) and gemtuzumab ozogamicin (Mylotarg).
- A cancer cell has various receptors on its surface. Chemicals bind to these receptors and cause changes within the cancer cell. One of the receptors that occurs in about one-third of all breast cancers is called HER2. HER2 is known to control the growth and development of the cancer cells, and the production of new cancer cells. If HER2 receptors are present in large numbers on the cancer cells (often referred to as overexpression of HER2), then the cancer cells may multiply and grow quickly. Normally, the immune system produces antibodies that will detect and attack HER2 receptors to slow the growth of cancer cells; however, if HER2 is present in large numbers, the immune system may be unable to control HER2. Trastuzumab is a man-made antibody developed using molecular cloning and recombinant DNA technology. Trastuzumab is thought to block the HER2 receptors when there is overexpression, thereby blocking growth of the cancer.
What brand names are available for trastuzumab?
- Herceptin is the brand name available for trastuzumab in the US.
What are the uses for Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
- Trastuzumab is used for preventing recurrence (adjuvant treatment) of HER2 overexpressing breast cancer.
- It also is used for treatment of metastatic breast cancer, metastatic gastric, or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma among patients who overexpress HER2.
- It may be used alone or combined with other chemotherapy drugs.
What are the side effects of Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
BLACK BOX WARNING
- Trastuzumab can cause heart failure, especially when it is combined with cyclophosphamide and anthracycline-containing chemotherapy regimens. Left ventricular function should be monitored prior to and during treatment.
- It should be stopped in patients receiving adjuvant therapy, and withheld in patients with metastatic cancer if the function of the heart decreases significantly.
Herceptin (trasuzumab) side effects
Common side effects include:
- 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)
- infusion-related side effects including mild to moderate chills and/or fever (40% of patients)
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Distortion of taste
Other side effects include:
Latest Cancer News
Daily Health News
What are the serious side effects of Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
Possible serious side effects include:
- Heart failure
- Pulmonary toxicity
- Serious allergic reactions
- Fetal toxicity
- Decreased red and/or white blood cells,
- Herpes simplex infections
- Urinary tract infections
Trastuzumab can cause serious and fatal infusion reactions and pulmonary toxicity. Symptoms usually occur during treatment or within 24 hours of treatment. The infusion should be interrupted if patients develop shortness of breath or significant reduction in blood pressure, and patients should be monitored until symptoms completely resolve.
Trastuzumab should be stopped if any of the following occurs:
Use of trastuzumab during pregnancy can cause oligohydramnios and oligohydramnios sequence, manifesting as pulmonary hypoplasia, skeletal abnormalities, and death of the baby.
Is Herceptin (trastuzumab) safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
- Trastuzumab or Herceptin can cause fetal harm when administered to pregnant women and should not be administered during pregnancy.
- It is not known whether trastuzumab is excreted in human milk. Nursing mothers should decide whether to stop nursing or discontinue the drug.
- Use of trastuzumab during pregnancy can cause oligohydramnios and oligohydramnios sequence, manifesting as pulmonary hypoplasia, skeletal abnormalities, and death of the baby.
Which drugs or supplements interact with Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
- Paclitaxel may increase blood levels of trastuzumab.
What is the dosage for Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
- Trastuzumab is administered by intravenous infusion over 30 to 90 minutes.
Herceptin for adjuvant treatment
- The recommended dose of trastuzumab during and following paclitaxel (Taxol), docetaxel (Taxotere), or docetaxel/carboplatin (Paraplatin) treatment is 4 mg per kilogram of body weight followed by a weekly dose of 2 mg per kilogram of body weight for 12 weeks or 18 weeks.
- When it is used alone the dose is 8 mg/kg initially followed by 6 mg/kg every 3 weeks.
Herceptin for Metastatic breast cancer treatment
- Trastuzumab 4 mg/kg is administered alone or in combination with paclitaxel followed by once weekly doses of 2 mg/kg until there is disease progression.
Herceptin Metastatic Gastric Cancer
- The initial dose of trastuzumab is 8 mg/kg then 6 mg/kg every 3 weeks until there is disease progression.
What else should I know about Herceptin (trastuzumab)?
What preparations of trastuzumab are available?
- Trastuzumab is available as a powder in a vial containing 440 mg of the drug. It must be mixed with a liquid before intravenous injection.
How should I keep it stored?
- Trastuzumab should be stored at 2 C to 8 C (36F to 46 F), and should not be frozen.
When was XYZ approved by the FDA?
- Trastuzumab was approved by the FDA in 1998.
Herceptin (trastuzumab) is an intravenous medication used for recurrence prevention and treatment of breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast (metastasized). There is a black box warning for Herceptin: It can cause heart failure when it is combined with certain drugs.
Multimedia: Slideshows, Images & Quizzes
Understanding Cancer: Metastasis, Stages of Cancer, and More
Learn the basics about cancer including types, causes, how it spreads, symptoms and signs, stages and treatment options. Read...
Breast Cancer Awareness: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Learn about breast cancer causes, symptoms, tests, recovery, and prevention. Discover the types of treatments such as surgery and...
10 Things Young Women Should Know About Breast Cancer
Is breast cancer genetic? Should I get tested for the BRCA gene? What every young women should know about breast cancer. Discover...
Cancer-Fighting Foods: Resveratrol, Green Tea, and More
Experts have praised certain foods for their ability to reduce cancer risks. Learn which foods and eating strategies may help...
Breast Cancer Quiz: Symptoms & Signs
This Breast Cancer Quiz features signs, symptoms, facts, causes, common forms, terms, risk factors, statistics, and more. ...
Top 10 Cancers Quiz
Take this quiz to learn the causes of cancer. Get the facts about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for the world's most...
Picture of Breast Anatomy
The breast refers to the front of the chest or, more specifically, to the mammary gland. See a picture of Breast Anatomy and...
Related Disease Conditions
Cancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
The breast, or mammary gland is made up of lobules, milk producing glands, and a system of ducts to transport milk. Both males and females have breasts. Abnormal enlargement of breasts in men is referred to as gynecomastia. In women, during pregnancy the breasts grow larger and produce milk. Common medical conditions that affect the breasts include breast cancer, breast lumps, fibrocystic changes and cysts, mastitis, and benign tumors (fibroadenomas).
Though the cause of stomach cancer is unknown, risk factors for stomach cancer include diet, H. pylori infection, smoking age, gastritis, stomach surgery, family history, and pernicious anemia. Symptoms include stomach discomfort, feeling full after a small meal, nausea and vomiting, and weight loss. Treatment depends upon staging and may involve surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
Male Breast Cancer
Male breast cancer accounts for 1% of all breast cancers, and most cases are found in men between the ages of 60 and 70. A man's risk of developing breast cancer is one in 1,000. Signs and symptoms include a firm mass located below the nipple and skin changes around the nipple, including puckering, redness or scaling, retraction and ulceration of the nipple. Treatment depends upon staging and the health of the patient.
Larynx Cancer (Throat Cancer)
Symptoms and signs of cancer of the larynx, the organ at the front of the neck, include hoarseness, a lump in the neck, sore throat, cough, problems breathing, bad breath, earache, and weight loss. Treatment for larynx cancer depends on the stage (the extent) of the disease. Radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy are all forms of treatment for laryngeal cancer.
Gastroesophageal Junction Adenocarcinoma
Gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma is cancer that forms in the area where the esophagus joins the stomach. Having GERD and Barrett's esophagus increases one's odds of developing gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma. Symptoms and signs of GE junction adenocarcinoma include dysphagia, weight loss, black stool, cough, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy.
Breast cancer is an invasive tumor that develops in the mammary gland. Breast cancer is detected via mammograms, breast self-examination (BSE), biopsy, and specialized testing on breast cancer tissue. Treatment of breast cancer may involve surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Breast cancer risk may be lowered by managing controllable risk factors.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is an accelerated form of breast cancer that is not usually detected by mammogram or ultrasound. Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include pain in the breast, skin change in the breast area, bruise on the breast,sudden swelling of the breast, nipple retraction or discharge, and swelling of the lymph nodes.
Breast Cancer Recurrence
Breast cancer most often recurs within the first three to five years after the initial treatment. Changes in the look, feel, or appearance of the breast may indicate breast cancer recurrence. Factors related to recurrence include tumor size, tumor grade, hormone receptor status, lymph node involvement, and oncogene expression. Treatment for recurrent breast cancer depends on the initial treatment.
Paget Disease of the Breast (Paget's Disease of the Nipple)
Paget's disease is a rare form of cancer that forms in or around the nipple and frequently coexists with breast cancer. The exact cause of Paget's disease is unknown. Symptoms and signs include redness, scaling, and flaking of the nipple skin. A biopsy and imaging studies are needed to diagnose the disease. Treatment may include surgery, radiation, and adjuvant therapy.
Breast Cancer and Lymphedema
Lymphedema is a common chronic, debilitating condition in which excess fluid called lymph collects in tissues and causes swelling in them. It is common after a mastectomy, lumpectomy or breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy.
Breast Cancer During Pregnancy
Breast cancer occurs in about 1 in every 1,000 pregnant women. Treatment of breast cancer during pregnancy involves surgery, but it is very difficult to protect the baby from the dangerous effects of radiation and chemotherapy. It can be an agonizing to decide whether or not to undergo breast cancer treatment while one is pregnant.
Breast Cancer in Young Women
About 5% of cases of breast cancer occur in women under the age of 40 years old. Some risk factors for breast cancer in young women include a personal history of breast cancer or breast disease, family history of breast cancer, prior radiation therapy, and the presence of BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutations. Breast self-exams, clinical breast exams, and screening mammograms may help detect breast cancer. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy.
Breast Cancer Treatment by Stage
Treatment of breast cancer depends upon the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. Some of the various treatments include: hormone therapy, radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, HER2-targeted therapy, neoadjuvant therapy, and adjuvant therapy.
Estimating Breast Cancer Risk: Questions and Answers
As breast cancer is the most diagnosed non-skin cancer in American women, it is important to know your breast cancer risk. Risk factors include age, age at menarche, age at first live birth, history of breast abnormalities, breast biopsies, race, and history or breast cancer among first-degree relatives.
Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
Breast cancer clinical trials are research programs designed to evaluate new medical treatments, drugs, or devices for the treatment of breast cancer. Clinical trials are designed to test the safety and efficacy of new treatments as well as assess potential side effects. Clinical trials also compare new treatment to existing treatments to determine if it's any better. There are many important questions to ask your doctor before taking part in a breast cancer clinical trial.
Cancer survivors face ongoing physical, mental, occupational, and relationship challenges. Cancer survivors must coordinate follow-up care with the doctor and develop a wellness plan to stay healthy. This includes reducing stress, eating well, and exercising to support optimal health and minimize the risk of the cancer returning.
Breast Cancer and Coping With Stress
Being diagnosed with breast cancer is stressful. Learning relaxation techniques, exercising, eating well, getting adequate sleep, receiving psychotherapy, and maintaining a positive attitude can help you cope. Creating documents, such as an advance directive, living will, and durable power of attorney will outline your wishes in the event that you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your care.
Treatment & Diagnosis
- Breast Cancer FAQs
- Cancer FAQs
- How To Reduce Your Medication Costs
- Pharmacy Visit, How To Get The Most Out of Your Visit
- Indications for Drugs: Approved vs. Non-approved
- Drugs: Buying Prescription Drugs Online Safely
- Drugs: The Most Common Medication Errors
- Medication Disposal
- Dangers of Mixing Medications
- Generic Drugs, Are They as Good as Brand-Names?
Medications & Supplements
Prevention & Wellness
- Two Drugs Make Inroads Against Aggressive Breast Cancers
- Drug Halves Tumor Recurrence for Women With a Common Breast Cancer
- Heart Monitoring a Must for Breast Cancer Patients on Herceptin
- Breast Cancer Patients May Shorten Herceptin Regimen: Study
- Cost of Breast Cancer Chemo Varies Widely in U.S.
- Cheaper Breast Cancer Drug Does Well in Clinical Trial
- 'Precision' Cancer Treatment May Extend Lives
- Drug Duo May Rapidly Shrink Breast Tumors in Some Patients
- Cancer Treatment Should Proceed for Pregnant Women: Study
- Biosimilar Drugs: FAQ
- Herceptin May Benefit Some Women With Early Breast Cancer
- Herceptin Boosts Survival for Breast Cancer, Study Reports
- Herceptin Best for Certain Breast Cancer Patients, Study Says
- Some Breast Cancer Patients May Get Drug-Linked Heart Failure: Study
- Certain Breast Cancer Patients May Need Little Treatment After Tumor Removal
- Newer Anti-Estrogen Treatment May Benefit Younger Breast Cancer Survivors
- Experts Issue Treatment Guidelines for Aggressive Form of Breast Cancer
- Experts Urge Routine Test for All Patients With Invasive Breast Cancer
- FDA Approves First 'Pre-Surgical' Drug for Breast Cancer
- FDA Panel Backs Wider Use of Drug to Treat Early Stage Breast Cancer
- Novel Drug Shows Promise for Early Stage Breast Cancer
- Health Highlights: May 7, 2013
- Testing Lung Cancer Patients for Gene May Aid Treatment, Study Finds
- No Benefit Seen in Extending Herceptin for Breast Cancer
- Existing Breast Cancer Drugs May Help More Women
- Herceptin May Carry Higher Heart Risks for Women Than Thought
- Novel Drug Approach Shows Promise Against Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer Drug May Harm the Heart More Than Thought
- Experimental Drug Shows Promise for Certain Breast Cancers
- Is Cancer Outwitting 'Personalized Medicine'?
- Drug Duo May Help Fight Aggressive Form of Breast Cancer
- 40 Years On, the Triumphs and Challenges of America's 'War on Cancer'
- Avastin Boosted Survival for Type of Aggressive Breast Cancer: Study
- Common Breast Cancer Gene Test May Be Flawed, Study Says
- Genetic Profiling Adds New Dimension to Breast Cancer Treatment
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.