What is Trastuzumab?

 Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is a monoclonal antibody chemotherapy/biotherapy medication. It is used to treat breast cancer that expresses human epidermal growth receptor 2 (HER2), advanced or metastatic; and metastatic gastric cancer that again expresses human epidermal growth receptor 2 (HER2). This medication binds to the human epidermal receptor 2 and signals the cells to die; thus preventing tumor growth.

How it is administered:

Trastuzumab is an intravenous infusion. The first infusion is known as the loading dose; more medication is given during this infusion to increase the amount of this medication circulating in the body. It is a 90 minute infusion. Depending on how the initial infusion is tolerated, all subsequent infusions are 30 minutes and not as much medication is administered as the initial loading dose infusion. To prevent any reactions during infusion, pre-medications are administered prior to trastuzumab. 

What to expect:

Trastuzumab can cause damage to the heart tissue; prior to starting therapy and periodically throughout the course of treatment, heart functioning tests are performed. Other side effects associated with trastuzumab include, but are not limited to: headache, fever, chills, insomnia, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, decreased appetite, weakness, back pain, water retention and cough. Laboratory tests will be performed routinely throughout the course of therapy to help manage and monitor the development of these side effects.