alternative treatments

Herceptin Immune Targeted Therapy for Breast Cancer

PJ Hamel Health Guide July 02, 2008
  • Q. I’ve been diagnosed with HER2-positive stage II breast cancer, and after surgery will be doing chemo (AC + T). After that’s done, my oncologist says I’ll be taking Herceptin. He called it a “targeted therapy.” What does that mean? Is it like tamoxifen?A. Unlike tamoxi...

10 Comments
  • Laurie Kingston
    Health Guide
    Apr. 01, 2009

    Great post!

     

    I just wanted to add that some women react to herceptin - shakes, fever, teeth chattering. This is most often for the first treatment only (which is why it is given over 90 minutes) but for some of us, who react more intensely other drugs can help mitigate side effects (I reacted VERY dramatically but the Herceptin also worked REALLY well...

    RHMLucky777

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    Great post!

     

    I just wanted to add that some women react to herceptin - shakes, fever, teeth chattering. This is most often for the first treatment only (which is why it is given over 90 minutes) but for some of us, who react more intensely other drugs can help mitigate side effects (I reacted VERY dramatically but the Herceptin also worked REALLY well for me). I take demerol and gravol (drammamine in US) intravenously with every treatment and continue to get treatment over 90 minutes. I know my case is rare, though and most women do not react at all.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Apr. 01, 2009

      Thanks for the heads-up, Laurie - the more information for our readers, the better. Hope you're doing well these days! PJH

    • Anonymous
      judy horse girl
      May. 31, 2009

      I'm doing Herceptin after a masectomy in December.  The cancer is gone and I didn't have any chemo or radiation.  I've had about 6 infusions of Herceptin over a 11 week period (I travel alot) without any side affects, so Friday I did a triple dose which will last me 3 weeks.  All I've "heard" is that fatigue might be a factor.  Any experiences...

      RHMLucky777

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      I'm doing Herceptin after a masectomy in December.  The cancer is gone and I didn't have any chemo or radiation.  I've had about 6 infusions of Herceptin over a 11 week period (I travel alot) without any side affects, so Friday I did a triple dose which will last me 3 weeks.  All I've "heard" is that fatigue might be a factor.  Any experiences out there with 3-week infusions?  I don't want to make plans right after an infusion if I'm going to be out of it and tired.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      May. 31, 2009

      Sorry, Judy, I don't have experience with this. Is there anyone out there who can share their personal experience here? PJH

    • Laurie Kingston
      Health Guide
      May. 31, 2009

      So glad that your cancer is gone!

       

      I have only ever had 3 week infusions of Herceptin and I  have only ever had it with navelbine/vinorelbine so I can't offer any insight into the difference in side effects. I had a friend who found that Herceptin on its own gave her flu-like symptoms and made her feel very tired (she always took the day off after...

      RHMLucky777

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      So glad that your cancer is gone!

       

      I have only ever had 3 week infusions of Herceptin and I  have only ever had it with navelbine/vinorelbine so I can't offer any insight into the difference in side effects. I had a friend who found that Herceptin on its own gave her flu-like symptoms and made her feel very tired (she always took the day off after treatment) but I don't know if that was just how her particular body reacted or whether it was because of a higher dose.

       

      My instinct says that if you have been receiving Hercepin as often as you have with no side effecs, a less frequent but higher dose shouldn't be any harder.

       

      But I am just speculating. ;-)

       

      Good luck and take good care-

      Laurie

  • k2
    k2
    May. 19, 2011

    Just curious as someone who has had adjuvant therapy with Herceptin in the past (7 years ago):  How long does it bind itself to the HER2 protein to inhibit the "grow" message.  Not sure what happened to my prior post and why all the crazy code....sorry about that - hope you can delete it.  At any rate, keep up the good work with the relevant...

    RHMLucky777

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    Just curious as someone who has had adjuvant therapy with Herceptin in the past (7 years ago):  How long does it bind itself to the HER2 protein to inhibit the "grow" message.  Not sure what happened to my prior post and why all the crazy code....sorry about that - hope you can delete it.  At any rate, keep up the good work with the relevant information we are all seeking....

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      May. 19, 2011

      Crazy code deleted! It happens when you cut and paste, usually from a word-type document... At any rate, I did a bit of research but was unable to determine how long the effects of Herceptin last. I'd suspect not long, once you stop taking the drug. Still, it's a new enough drug that researchers might not have enough data yet to make a fair assessment. Bottom...

      RHMLucky777

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      Crazy code deleted! It happens when you cut and paste, usually from a word-type document... At any rate, I did a bit of research but was unable to determine how long the effects of Herceptin last. I'd suspect not long, once you stop taking the drug. Still, it's a new enough drug that researchers might not have enough data yet to make a fair assessment. Bottom line, this would be a question for your oncologist, OK? Take care- PJH

  • Joy
    Joy
    Mar. 31, 2011

    Dr. I read your advice on the Herceptin and just like to share my dilema.

    I currently am on the 7th cycle of 17 every three weeks. (I was worried about your advise that clinical advise is preferably effective every week.) I my aggressive breast cance in alte stage 4 metastised to nodes in my armpit, throat and my sternum. Chemo, radiation and double masectomy...

    RHMLucky777

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    Dr. I read your advice on the Herceptin and just like to share my dilema.

    I currently am on the 7th cycle of 17 every three weeks. (I was worried about your advise that clinical advise is preferably effective every week.) I my aggressive breast cance in alte stage 4 metastised to nodes in my armpit, throat and my sternum. Chemo, radiation and double masectomy and axilla all done in 1 yr. This is my 2nd yr of treatment but on Herceptin. My heart rates been low and now have 3 monthly Gated Heart Pool scans. My oncologist said I might need to stop because we worried about the cancer in my sternum as well as the recurrence of my 20 yr old pulmonary tuberculoisis. I have the occassional coughs every two wks. It just comes from without a cold. I can tell now that its the Herceptin. A few of my nerves were snipped on my arm. My right hand is not in use for bloods or IV. Just my left. I have chest pains. When I breath the centre of my chest hurts. I have spasms in my leg muscles, my thighs, my back and my arms. My wound also hurts. My joint aches have been a regualr thing also now. I have irregualr bleeding (period) was supposed to be in early menopause. I have occassional bleeding from when I toilet but none from my urine. I think the Herceptin although is so good the risks are pretty much there to start with. My feeling is overtime so many little problems appear and we just shrug it of as a normal kind of body response. This now scares me. When's a joint ache something to worry about or a head ache or the chest pains. I'd just like to remind my fellow cancer patients that sometimes its good to fuss. Just tell a dr to have a look. I am learning alot from your advise on this site. Thankyou for reaching out to us.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Apr. 01, 2011

      Joy, it sounds like you're really having a lot of uncomfortable side effects. I hope you've discussed each and every one with your oncologist; during cancer treatment we often find ourselves seeing a host of different doctors, and it's important that your oncologist is the one who knows EVERYTHING that's going on with you.

       

      We're not doctors here; and...

      RHMLucky777

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      Joy, it sounds like you're really having a lot of uncomfortable side effects. I hope you've discussed each and every one with your oncologist; during cancer treatment we often find ourselves seeing a host of different doctors, and it's important that your oncologist is the one who knows EVERYTHING that's going on with you.

       

      We're not doctors here; and thus can't really help you, except to provide general information and emotional support. I'm glad you've found this site, and hope it's helped you simply to put your feelings down on paper, and thus perhaps offload some anixety. Best of luck going forward, and I hope your remaining treatments get easier- PJH

    • Phyllis Johnson
      Health Guide
      Apr. 01, 2011

      A little fussing can be a good thing!  Some of your side effects probably are from the Herceptin.  It sounds like your doctor is being careful about monitoring your heart.  Herceptin has had such good effects in reducing breast cancer deaths that the longer you can take it, the better.  I know many women with heart problems from Herceptin...

      RHMLucky777

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      A little fussing can be a good thing!  Some of your side effects probably are from the Herceptin.  It sounds like your doctor is being careful about monitoring your heart.  Herceptin has had such good effects in reducing breast cancer deaths that the longer you can take it, the better.  I know many women with heart problems from Herceptin who saw improvement after they stopped the drug, so try not to worry about permanent heart damage.  Some of your other issues don't sound like typical Herceptin side effects.  I echo PJ's advice to tell your oncologist about every little pain.  When your are in cancer treatment, that is essential.  It's not whining.  It's up to the oncologist to sort out what needs more investigation or a change in drugs.