Herceptin is licensed for use in treating breast cancer and stomach cancer. As a part of a group of medications called monoclonal antibodies, Herceptin works by binding to certain proteins on the cancer cells to interfere with their growth and multiplication. Herceptin is not a form of chemotherapy; it is a type of biological therapy and is considered less "toxic" than chemotherapy.
What Is Herceptin Used For?
Herceptin® (trastuzumab) is a prescription medication used to treat breast cancer and gastric cancer (stomach cancer). It is part of a group of medications called monoclonal antibodies.
Women in the United States get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer, except for skin cancer. Each year, more than 211,000 American women learn that they have breast cancer. Most causes of breast cancer are not known. In 5 to 10 percent of these cases, there is a hereditary component. Common symptoms of breast cancer include:
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
- A change in how the breast or nipple feels
- Nipple tenderness
- A change in how the breast or nipple looks
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- A nipple turned inward into the breast
- Nipple discharge (fluid).
In general, breast cancer treatment options can include:
Herceptin has been licensed to treat breast cancer in the following ways:
- In combination with chemotherapy to prevent cancer from returning after breast cancer surgery for node-positive cancers (that have spread to lymph nodes) that overexpress HER2 (have a high concentration of HER2 receptors). There are a few different regimens, such as:
- Herceptin can be combined with docetaxel and carboplatin for 18 weeks, followed by Herceptin alone for a total of 52 weeks of Herceptin treatment.
- Herceptin can be used by itself (for 52 weeks of treatment) after an anthracycline-based chemotherapy regimen. Anthracyclines include:
- Alone to treat people who have already undergone chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancers (that have spread to other parts of the body) that overexpress HER2.
- In combination with paclitaxel (Onxol, Taxol) to treat metastatic breast cancers that overexpress HER2 in people who have not had prior chemotherapy.