Class: Biologic agent
Generic Name: Trastuzumab (trass-TOO-zoo-mab)
Trade Name: Herceptin®
How is this drug used? Herceptin is FDA approved for the treatment of the following cancers if they test positive for a protein known as HER2: breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes; node-negative breast cancer that is estrogen receptor-negative or has a high-risk feature; metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body); and metastatic cancer of the stomach or gastroesophageal junction (where the esophagus joins the stomach). It is important for patients to remember that physicians have the ability to prescribe medication for conditions other than those for which the drug has been approved by the FDA. Patients who have received a prescription of this drug for a condition other than which it is approved may wish to discuss this issue with their physician.
What is the mechanism of action? Herceptin is classified as a monoclonal antibody. Herceptin produces its anti-cancer effects by binding to and disabling a growth stimulatory pathway on cancer cells referred to as the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) pathway.
How is Herceptin given (administered)? Herceptin is administered into a vein (intravenous) and the dose depends on several factors, including the size of the patient, the type of cancer and particular treatment regimen being used, and the overall health of the patient.
During the administration of Herceptin, particularly the initial infusion, patients may experience chills and fever. Medication to decrease the chances of this reaction occurring may be given prior to treatment with Herceptin. In addition, a more serious allergic reaction to Herceptin may occur, although it is rare, that causes difficulty breathing, closing of the throat, swelling of facial features, hives, chills, low blood pressure, or lightheadedness. Patients should tell their healthcare professional immediately if they are experiencing any of these symptoms.
How are patients monitored? Patients will usually have scheduled meetings with their healthcare provider while they are being treated with Herceptin. Typically, blood will be drawn to check levels of blood cells and to monitor functions of some organ systems, such as the kidneys or liver. Patients may also undergo physical examinations, scans or other measures to assess side effects and response to therapy. Patients will also have their heart function monitored, as Herceptin is associated with a rare but serious side effect that affects the pumping action of the heart.
What are the common side effects of Herceptin among patients with early-stage breast cancer?
What are the common side effects of Herceptin among patients with metastatic breast cancer?
What are the common side effects of Herceptin among patients with metastatic stomach cancer?
What are the less common but potentially serious side effects of Herceptin?
This is not a complete list of side effects. Some patients may experience other side effects that are not listed here. Patients may wish to discuss with their physician the other less common side effects of this drug, some of which may be serious.
Some side effects may require medical attention. Other side effects do not require medical attention and may go away during treatment. Patients should check with their physician about any side effects that continue or are bothersome.
What can patients do to help alleviate or prevent discomfort and side effects?
Are there any special precautions patients should be aware of before starting treatment?
When should patients notify their physician?
Tell your doctor if you experience any side effects that bother you or don’t go away. Also tell your doctor if you experience any of the following:
What is a package insert?
A package insert is required by the FDA and contains a summary of the essential scientific information needed for the safe and effective use of the drug for healthcare providers and consumers. A package insert typically includes information regarding specific indications, administration schedules, dosing, side effects, contraindications, results from some clinical trials, chemical structure, pharmacokinetics and metabolism of the specific drug. By carefully reviewing the package insert, you will get the most complete and current information about how to safely use this drug. If you do not have the package insert for the drug you are using, your pharmacist or physician may be able to provide you with a copy.
Copyright © 2011 CancerConnect Last updated 06/11.
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