Cancer Home > Trastuzumab
What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider Before Taking Trastuzumab?You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking this medicine if you have:
- Congestive heart failure (CHF)
- Heart disease
- Lung problems
- Any allergies, including allergies to food, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
- Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant (see Herceptin and Pregnancy)
- Breastfeeding (see Herceptin and Breastfeeding).
Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about all of the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
(Click Precautions and Warnings With Trastuzumab to learn more, including information on who should not take the drug.)
How Does Trastuzumab Work?
Trastuzumab is part of a group of medications called monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including cancer. Trastuzumab is a special type of monoclonal antibody that is designed to bind to HER2, a protein on the outside of certain cancer cells. When trastuzumab binds to HER2 receptor proteins, it has several effects. It may interfere with the cancer cells' ability to grow and multiply.
By binding to the HER2 receptor, trastuzumab may also serve as a signal to the immune system, which can help destroy the cancer cells.
Trastuzumab is not a form of chemotherapy. It is a biologic therapy, also known as biological therapy (see Biological Therapy for Breast Cancer). This medication is less "toxic" than chemotherapy, as it specifically targets the HER2 receptors. Because trastuzumab is only used to treat cancers that have a high concentration of HER2 receptors, it targets the tumors, having less of an effect on healthy, noncancerous cells.
Before trastuzumab can be prescribed for a particular patient, certain tests must be performed to make sure that the tumor "overexpresses" HER2. When a cell makes a certain receptor or protein, it is said to "express" that receptor or protein. Tumor cells that overexpress HER2 have a high concentration of the HER2 receptor. Not all breast or stomach cancers overexpress HER2, and not all people with breast or stomach cancer will benefit from trastuzumab.