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What is Herceptin?

Herceptin (Trastuzumab) is one of a new group of cancer drugs called monoclonal antibodies.

It is mainly used to treat women with advanced breast cancer.

It has recently gained approval for use in the treatment of early breast cancer in women that are HER2 receptor positive.

Herceptin is given via an intra-venous drip. Treatment with Herceptin can be combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.

How does Herceptin work?

Herceptin works by interfering with one of the ways in which breast cancer cells divide and grow. Some breast cancer cells divide and grow when a protein that naturally occurs in the body, known as human epidermal growth factor, attaches itself to another protein, known as HER2, found on the surface of some breast cancer cells.

Herceptin blocks this process by attaching itself to the HER2 protein so that the epidermal growth factor cannot reach the breast cancer cells.

Is Herceptin suitable for all breast cancers?

Herceptin only works in people who have high levels of the HER2 protein.

Only about one in five women (20%) with breast cancer have tumours that will be sensitive to trastuzumab.

Herceptin appears to have little effect in people who are HER2 negative.

Will I be tested for HER2 levels?

Several tests are available to measure HER2 levels. However, at present it is not standard practice for doctors to routinely test all women for HER2.

Testing is usually done when a specialist thinks Herceptin may be a treatment option for a particular person.


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