Breast cancer expert

A surgeon talks about breast cancer, including symptoms to look out for, screening and treatment.

Media attention

Herceptin gained a lot of press attention in the months leading up to NICE's decision to recommend the drug to certain people with breast cancer. This was because there were several court cases involving women with early breast cancer who wanted their local primary care trust (PCT) to fund their treatment, even without NICE approval and guidance.

Herceptin is the brand name of a medicine called trastuzumab. It can stop the growth of breast cancer and sometimes reduce the size of the tumour.

Herceptin is given intravenously (by a drip into a vein), through a fine tube. It can be given in combination with chemotherapy, or on its own to people who have already had two courses of chemotherapy.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has given its approval for Herceptin to be offered to some people with early and advanced breast cancer. For more information, see the press release NICE recommends trastuzumab (Herceptin) for advanced breast cancer.

How Herceptin works

Herceptin is only recommended for people who have high levels of HER2 protein. HER2 is found on the surface of some breast cancer cells.

Herceptin attaches itself to the HER2 protein, which prevents a protein called epidermal growth factor reaching the cancer cells. This stops the cancer cells dividing and growing.

Herceptin has little effect on people who do not have high levels of HER2 protein. Around one woman in five with breast cancer has a tumour that is sensitive to Herceptin. You can have a test to check your levels of HER2 protein if your specialist believes it is appropriate.

Herceptin is not recommended for people with a pre-existing heart condition.

Last reviewed: 19/05/2010

Next review due: 19/05/2012


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