Herceptin is the brand name of a medicine called Trastuzumab and is used in the management of some types of breast cancer and stomach cancer.
This drug is only suggested for people whose cancer is associated with a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). These are known as HER2-positive cancers.
It is expected that around one in five cases of breast cancer and stomach cancer are HER2-positive.
HER2 is present in all human cells, but in cases of HER2-positive cancers the levels are unusually high.
High levels of HER2 are known to stimulate the growth of these types of cancer, so Herceptin acts by blocking the effects of the protein. At the same time it encourages the immune system (the body’s defense against infection) to attack the abnormal cells.
Herceptin can be used : during the initial phases of breast cancer, following surgery and/or radiotherapy and chemotherapy , to reduce the risk of the cancer re-occurringfor advanced breast cancer that has begun to spread out of the breast (metastatic breast cancer) – it can be given as a single treatment or used in combination with chemotherapyfor advanced stomach cancer that has started to spread out of the stomach (metastatic stomach cancer)Herceptin cannot treat metastatic breast and stomach cancers, but it can slow their growth and increase survival time.
Herceptin can cause heart problems, so it is not usually mentioned for people with pre-existing heart problems or poorly controlled hypertension.
If you need to take this drug your heart will be tested regularly to make sure there are no problems.
It is unclear whether it is totally safe to use during pregnancy. As a precaution it is only recommended in cases where the benefits of treatment strongly outweigh any potential risk to the baby.
Side effects :
The side effects of this product are usually mild. Some may occur when you’re having the drip or up to four hours after, particularly with the first dose. These include flu-like symptoms such as a headache, high temperature (fever) and chills, or feeling sick. They generally get better within a few hours of the drip finishing. Another possible side effect is an allergic reaction, but this is rare. The nurses will check for signs of a reaction. If it happens, they can treat it quickly with drugs.
You may get other side effects after treatment. These include diarrhea, headaches and feeling sick.