Fight HER2+ Breast Cancer with Herceptin
Approximately 1 in 4 patients with breast cancer has HER2+ breast cancer.1 If you have HER2+ breast cancer, Herceptin is a therapy designed to help fight your kind of cancer.
How HER2+ breast cancer is different
Not all breast cancers are the same. HER2+ breast cancer cells have more HER2 receptors (a particular protein found on the surface of cells) than normal breast cells.
- Having too many HER2 receptors may make the cancer cells grow and divide faster, creating more HER2+ cancer cells
- HER2+ breast cancer is considered aggressive because it grows and spreads quickly
Targeted therapy is available for some women with HER2+ breast cancer.
Aggressive cancers are cancers that grow and spread very quickly. HER2+ breast cancer (your doctor may call it “HER2-overexpressing breast cancer”) is considered aggressive because the cells have too many HER2 receptors, which cause the cells to grow and divide too quickly.
- HER2 status. Breastcancer.org. http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/her2. Updated January 22, 2014. Accessed July 31, 2014.
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.
Early-stage and metastatic are different stages of cancer. A cancer's stage refers to how much the cancer has grown and where it has spread. Staging systems help describe the cancer, so that your doctor can decide what treatments will be appropriate.
Important safety information you should know about Herceptin
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