August 31, 2015

Pertuzumabinfo-icon (Perjeta) is a targeted therapyinfo-icon used to treat early-stageinfo-icon and metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer. Pertuzumab is a monoclonal antibodyinfo-icon, a type of medicineinfo-icon made in a lab that targets a specific proteininfo-icon, HER2, produced on the outside of a cellinfo-icon. It falls in a class of medicines called targeted therapies.

In 2013, the FDAinfo-icon approved pertuzumab for use in early-stage disease when given at the same time as the targeted therapy trastuzumab (Herceptininfo-icon) and the chemotherapyinfo-icon medicine docetaxel (Taxotere). It was the first breast cancer medicine to be approved by the FDA specifically as neoadjuvant therapyinfo-icon.

How Pertuzumab Works

Pertuzumabinfo-icon works by blocking signals that tell breast cancer cells to multiply. After attaching to cancer cells, it can also alert the immune systeminfo-icon to kill them.

Who Gets Pertuzumab

Pertuzumabinfo-icon may be used in people with early-stageinfo-icon, HER2-positive breast cancer that is at high risk of returning or spreading outside of the breast. You may be able to take pertuzumab for early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer if the cancer is

  • larger than 2 centimeters across, or
  • locally advanced, meaning it has traveled to nearby tissueinfo-icon or lymphinfo-icon nodes, or
  • inflammatory, a type of breast cancer in the skin of the breast that causes the breast to look red and swollen and feel warm to the touch

In metastatic breast cancer, pertuzumab is used for HER2-positive breast cancer that has not yet been treated with trastuzumabinfo-icon or with chemotherapyinfo-icon after a stage IV diagnosisinfo-icon. A 2014 ASCO guideline recommends the combination of trastuzumab and pertuzumab, two medicines that attack HER2 proteins, along with taxaneinfo-icon-based chemotherapy, as a first treatment for metastaticinfo-icon breast cancer.

You and your doctor will discuss the best treatment plan for your situation.

How Pertuzumab Is Given

In early-stageinfo-icon disease, pertuzumabinfo-icon is given by veininfo-icon, before surgeryinfo-icon, typically on the same day as trastuzumabinfo-icon and docetaxelinfo-icon. You may receive it for up to 18 weeks. After your surgery, you would then take Herceptininfo-icon alone to complete a year of treatment.

Side Effects and Things to Remember

When pertuzumabinfo-icon is given with trastuzumabinfo-icon and chemotherapyinfo-icon, the side effects people experience most often are:

If you are getting chemotherapy and trastuzumab along with pertuzumab, you also may have side effects of trastuzumab and chemotherapy.

Trastuzumab is known to cause heart problems, but studies show that adding pertuzumab to trastuzumab doesn’t raise the risk. It’s unlikely you’ll have serious heart problems while taking these medicines, but it’s important your doctor monitor your heart health during treatment.

Before starting pertuzumab tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over-the-counterinfo-icon medicines. You should not become pregnant while taking pertuzumab.

Your doctor, pharmacistinfo-icon or nurseinfo-icon can help you manage your side effects. You can also go to our section on Side Effects for more information.

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