Proven targeted therapy for your kind of cancer
Herceptin is a targeted therapy approved for the treatment of people with certain HER2+ cancers. HER2+ cancer cells have more HER2 receptors (a particular protein found on the surface of cells) than normal cells. HER2+ cancer is considered aggressive because it grows and spreads quickly.
Who is Herceptin for?
Adjuvant Breast Cancer
Herceptin is approved for the treatment of early-stage breast cancer that is Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2-positive (HER2+) and has spread into the lymph nodes, or is HER2-positive and has not spread into the lymph nodes. If it has not spread into the lymph nodes, the cancer needs to be estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor (ER/PR)-negative or have one high risk feature.* Herceptin can be used in several different ways:
- As part of a treatment course including the chemotherapy drugs doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and either paclitaxel or docetaxel. This treatment course is known as "AC→TH."
- With the chemotherapy drugs docetaxel and carboplatin. This treatment course is known as "TCH."
- Alone after treatment with multiple other therapies, including an anthracycline (doxorubicin)-based therapy (a type of chemotherapy).
*High risk is defined as ER/PR-positive with one of the following features: tumor size >2 cm, age <35 years, or tumor grade 2 or 3.
Metastatic Breast Cancer
Herceptin has 2 approved uses in metastatic breast cancer:
- Herceptin in combination with the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel is approved for the first line treatment of Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2-positive (HER2+) metastatic breast cancer.
- Herceptin alone is approved for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer in patients who have received one or more chemotherapy courses for metastatic disease.
Metastatic Stomach/GEJ Cancer
Herceptin is approved, in combination with chemotherapy (cisplatin and either capecitabine or 5-fluorouracil), for the treatment of HER2-positive metastatic cancer of the stomach or gastroesophageal junction (where the esophagus meets the stomach) in patients who have not received prior treatment for their metastatic disease.
Serious Side Effect: Heart Monitoring
- Your doctor will evaluate your heart function before and during treatment. Your doctor will stop Herceptin therapy if you exhibit weakening of the heart muscle or changes in the heart muscle structure
- If you are taking Herceptin and have stopped treatment temporarily because of significant heart problems, your doctor should monitor your heart health more frequently
Herceptin is targeted therapy for HER2+ cancer
In addition to traditional therapies, there are targeted therapies that target cells with specific proteins (such as receptors) for treatment. Some targeted therapies such as Herceptin target HER2 receptors, which may help keep the cancer from growing.1,2
- Herceptin Prescribing Information. Genentech, Inc. 2015.
- Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/breast/Patient/page5. Accessed April 6, 2015.
- Targeted therapy is different from other types of therapy. Targeted therapy is a type of medicine that is designed to attack specific cancer cells, but may also affect healthy cells.
- Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cells and/or shrink tumors
- Chemotherapy is a type of medicine that is designed to attack specific cancer cells
- Hormonal therapy* helps fight tumors that thrive on hormones like estrogen or progesterone by acting on hormone receptors on tumor cells or by decreasing the amount of estrogen available to bind to these receptors
Based on your needs, your doctor may choose 1 or more of these treatments for you.
* Breast cancer only.
- American Cancer Society. Breast cancer facts & figures 2013-2014. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@research/documents/document/acspc-042725.pdf. Accessed April 6, 2015.
How Herceptin may work1,2
Serious Side Effects: Infusion Reactions and Lung Problems
- Some patients have had serious infusion reactions and lung problems; infusion reactions leading to death have been reported
- Symptoms usually happen during or within 24 hours of taking Herceptin
- Your infusion should be temporarily stopped if you experience shortness of breath or very low blood pressure
- Your doctor should monitor you until these symptoms completely go away
- Your doctor may have you completely stop Herceptin treatment if you have:
- A severe allergic reaction
- Lung problems
- Swelling of the lungs
- Severe shortness of breath
- Herceptin Prescribing Information. Genentech, Inc. 2015.
- Pegram M, Slamon D. Biological rationale for HER2/neu (c-erbB2) as a target for monoclonal antibody therapy. Semin Oncol. 2000;27(suppl 9):13-19.
If you are unsure of your cancer’s HER2 status, you should talk to your doctor. HER2+ cancer is aggressive, so it is important to find out your cancer’s HER2 status as soon as possible. This can help your doctor choose which treatments may be right for you.
HER2 testing is performed with the tumor sample removed during surgery or using a needle.
Quality testing is important. Sometimes 1 test may not be enough to determine with certainty whether your tumor is HER2+. Ask your doctor to discuss the results of your pathology report, explain how your tumor’s HER2 status was determined, and to let you know whether another test may be necessary.
Important safety information you should know about Herceptin
As a treatment, Herceptin does involve risks. Serious side effects have occurred in people treated with Herceptin. Speak to a member of your healthcare team to learn more.
Serious Side Effects
- Herceptin treatment can result in heart problems, including those without symptoms (such as reduced heart function) and those with symptoms (such as congestive heart failure). The risk and seriousness of these heart problems were highest in people who received both Herceptin and a certain type of chemotherapy (anthracycline). One patient died in an adjuvant (early) breast cancer trial of significantly weakened heart muscle
- Your doctor will evaluate your heart function before and during treatment. For adjuvant breast cancer therapy, your doctor will also evaluate heart function after the end of treatment. Your doctor will stop Herceptin therapy if you have serious weakening of the heart muscle or changes in the heart muscle structure
- Some patients have had serious infusion reactions and lung problems; infusion reactions leading to death have been reported. Your doctor may have you completely stop Herceptin treatment if you have a severe allergic reaction, swelling, lung problems, swelling of the lungs, or severe shortness of breath
- Herceptin can cause harm to the fetus (unborn baby), in some cases death of the fetus, when taken by a pregnant woman