Herceptin® treatment for breast cancer

Breast cancer cells within some tumours over-express the HER2 receptor. This is a receptor found in small amounts on normal breast cells but some breast cancer cells produce it in large amounts. The more HER2 receptors a breast cancer cell has, the faster it grows.

In 2007, a treatment called Herceptin® was developed to block the HER2 receptor. This showed promising results in clinical trials in women with advanced breast cancer, and then in women with early stage breast cancer.

Women are now tested to see if their breast cancer cells produce the HER2 receptor; if they produce large amounts, they are then treated with Herceptin® for 12 months. This has been shown to increase the time that they are likely to survive breast cancer.

What is having Herceptin® like?

Herceptin® is a drug that doesn’t come in tablet and must be given intravenously, so is more like having chemotherapy, although it doesn’t have side effects that are as difficult to cope with. Herceptin® is infused directly into a vein or through a central line if you have one. The treatment takes about an hour and for early breast cancer, treatment is repeated every 3 weeks for one year. If your breast cancer is more advanced, you might have treatment once a week.

Although side effects such as nausea and vomiting are less with Herceptin®, and it doesn’t cause hair loss, the first treatment may make you feel unwell. This usually wears off fairly quickly. As you continue with Herceptin® treatment, your heart will be monitored as Herceptin® usage can cause heart problems in a small proportion of people who take it.

Trade names quoted are given as examples only of the drug types described, alternatives may be available.

Treatment at The London Clinic

For more information about private Herceptin® treatment for breast cancer click here and complete the confidential enquiry form or call +44 (0) 207 616 7693.