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update on Jean

Posts: 50
Joined: Jul 2001

Jean is taking herceptin along with her chemo. Has anyone been on this drug or can anyone tell me anything about it? Jean says she feels the drug is working and her doctor said she thinks it is too but it is to soon to tell.
Prayers for Jean, Cinder

hummingbyrd's picture
Posts: 961
Joined: Sep 2002

Herceptin is a Godsend! Been on it probably 16 months, should, in my opion been started on it prophelactically (before the bone mets), especially since I had such a high expression of HER2NU, but it wasn't indicated for prophalaxis. Anyway, that's my beef. It is a wonderful drug for me, seems to be working, and I can't complain of any side effects. I take it 1x/wk to keep a steady state, some docs offer it 1x/3wks. I feel like u have to many peaks and valleys (amount of drug in blood) between treatment. Personal preference, I also have a port-a-cath. It's a must in my book. Tell Jean I said God bless and keep a + attitude. We're praying for her. Thanks for the update! Hummingbyrd

Posts: 317
Joined: Apr 2002

Hi Cinder...thanks for keeping us posted. Prayers are going out for Jean and for you for being such a good, supportive friend. God bless you both, Cyndi

Posts: 20
Joined: Jul 2002

Cinder, Herceptin can do wonders so you should be hopeful for Jean. I will be praying as I, too, am taking Herceptin, but I have no mets. Like, Hummingbyrd, I am ER-, Her/2/Neu positive and I took it once a week for 12 weeks(which is required) before they will switch to a 3 week schedule. I have no side effects and hopefully this will get any micro mets I could have. Here is a complete explanation of Herceptin which I copied from CancerBACUP.org: God Bless, Paulette

Herceptin (which is also called trastuzumab) belongs to a new group of cancer drugs called monoclonal antibodies.

Herceptin may be used to treat women whose breast cancer has come back or spread to other parts of the body (secondary breast cancer). It may be given on its own, or together with certain chemotherapy drugs.

Herceptin works by interfering with one of the ways in which breast cancer cells divide and grow. Some breast cancer cells can be stimulate to multiply when a protein produced naturally in the body (called human epidermal growth factor) attaches itself to another protein on the surface of the breast cancer cells (this protein is called HER2). Herceptin prevents this happening by attaching itself to the HER2 protein so that the epidermal growth factor cannot reach the breast cancer cells. In this way it stops the cells from dividing and growing. Herceptin also works by attracting the body's own immune system to help destroy the cancer cells.

Herceptin works best in women who have increase amounts of HER2 protein and appears to have little effect in other women. At the moment it is only used for women with high levels of HER2 protein. Only between 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 women with breast cancer have high HER2 levels and so the drug is only suitable for a minority of patients.

Herceptin on its own can sometimes cause a shrinkage of the cancer but if it is given with some chemotherapy drugs it can often increase their effectiveness and may improve survival.

Herceptin is given by a drip into a vein, through a fine tube (cannula) inserted into the vein. It can be given in the outpatient department at the hospital and the first dose is given slowly, usually over about an hour and a half. After this doses are normally given weekly, over about 30 minutes. Usually four to six months of treatment are given together with chemotherapy and the Herceptin is then sometimes continued on its own.

Because Herceptin works specifically on breast cancer cells and does not affect normal cells the side effects appear to be mild, with temporary flu-like symptoms (fever and chills), shortly after the drug is given, being the commonest problem.

Herceptin is a new drug and its benefits are still being researched. It is also expensive.

At the present time in the UK the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is looking at the effectiveness of Herceptin and is likely to recommend to Health Authorities in December 2001 whether or not it should be made available for women whose breast cancer has come back or spread. In the meantime some Health Authorities are already funding the drug whilst others are waiting for NICE's verdict.

Although this delay seems frustrating do remember that at the moment Herceptin is only for women whose cancer has come back, or spread to other parts of the body, and that only a minority of women are likely to benefit from it. There are large trials that are currently looking at whether Hercptin may also be useful in the earlier stages of breast cancer but no results are available.

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