Herceptin: is it immunotherapy? What is it for and adverse reactions

The use of immunotherapeutic drugs for the treatment of certain diseases has become popular every year.

Some of these remedies are effective in treating diseases such as cancer , including Herceptin. Learn more about this medicine and its action:

What is Herceptin?

Herceptin is the trade name for Trastuzumab – an antibody produced in the laboratory. It is an oncological medication produced by Roche, used to treat tumors in the breast area.

This medication acts directly on the growth of tumor cells, inhibiting them.

There are two types of the drug: Herceptin and Herceptin SC. They can be used both early and late in the disease and can be applied subcutaneously (under the skin) or intravenously.

What is the difference between Herceptin and Herceptin SC?

The difference between Herceptin and Herceptin SC is in the way it is applied.

Herceptin is applied via an intravenous infusion. Its solution must be diluted in saline before being administered. Therefore, a serum is administered.

Herceptin SC, on the other hand, is applied by subcutaneous injection. The solution is ready for injection, not requiring dilution in other components.

Both drugs must be administered by trained professionals.

What is it for?

According to the package leaflet, Herceptin is indicated for cases of metastatic breast cancer – when cancer cells spread throughout the body and originate tumor foci in other organs – of the HER2-positive type.

HER2 is a protein that promotes the growth of breast cells. When a tumor is present, it is the tumor that stimulates its growth.

In these cases, Herceptin can be used individually, in patients who have already undergone chemotherapy treatment, or in conjunction with other specific medications, for people who have not yet undergone any previous treatment.

It can also be applied in cases of advanced gastric cancer, if associated with other drugs suitable for the problem. However, this use is only for Herceptin. Thus, Herceptin SC cannot be used for this purpose.

What is the active ingredient of Herceptin?

The active ingredient of the medicine is Trastuzumab.

It binds to the substance HER2 – the protein responsible for the greatest multiplication of cancer cells – and is responsible for inhibiting the proliferation of tumor cells with HER2 overexpression.

Eternal Herceptin

Both Herceptin and Perjeta are drugs used to treat initial and metastatic breast cancer. They are often used together to increase the survival of patients who have the disease.

Perjeta is applied via intravenous infusion and its active ingredient is Pertuzumab. It acts by binding to the HER2 protein as well, preventing the multiplication of diseased cells.

The choice of medication should be made based on the patient’s history and adaptation to treatment. Only trained professionals can evaluate the best option.

Is Herceptin immunotherapy?

No . Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs that stimulate the immune system to destroy cancer cells effectively.

Herceptin acts by binding to tumor cells with a high HER2. This causes the substance to be classified as an anti-tumor antibody. Thus, it does not stimulate or enhance the immune system and cannot be considered immunotherapy.

What is the difference between subcutaneous and intravenous Herceptin?

Studies show that the efficacy of the intravenous and subcutaneous application of the drug is similar.

Thus, the difference appears in the application time.

The intravenous route takes about 90 minutes to complete, as it is administered as a serum, more slowly. The subcutaneous, from 2 to 5 minutes.

What are Herceptin’s reactions?

The use of the medication may cause some adverse reactions to the patient. Each organism may react differently to the substance and not all symptoms will necessarily appear. According to the package insert, the most common reactions are: conjunctivitis , anemia , insomnia , headaches, fatigue , nosebleeds and nausea.

Other manifestations are:

  • Diarrhea;
  • Cold;
  • Digestion Difficulty;
  • Muscle pain;
  • Arthritis;
  • Chills;
  • Fever;
  • Swelling;
  • Sweating;
  • Dry skin;
  • Inflammation of the mucosa;
  • Sinusitis;
  • Rhinitis;
  • Asthma;
  • Hepatitis;
  • Hemorroida.

Taking into account that Herceptin is usually used in conjunction with other medications, it is difficult to identify its specific side effects. All reactions listed have been observed in clinical studies and tend to be well supported.

Does the hair fall out?

It depends. Partial or total hair and hair reduction is a common side effect of using Herceptin.

Despite this, the fall will not necessarily occur.

Price and where to buy?

Both Herceptin and Herceptin SC are expensive drugs.

Their values ​​vary between R $ 9,000 and R $ 12,000 * and can be found in physical pharmacies.

* Prices consulted in November 2019. Prices may change.

Does SUS provide Herceptin?

-Yeah . The drug has been offered by the Unified Health System (SUS) since 2012, however, only for patients in the initial and locally advanced stage.

In 2018, the distribution of the drug to people with metastatic breast cancer was confirmed.

In many cases, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit to obtain high-cost treatment free of charge. In these cases, patients can count on the assistance of legal advice on high-cost drugs , a personalized service offered by Consulta Remédios.

To get to know the judicial procedure better and have support and specific guidance in a simple and objective way, just access the link and send the completed form.


Even with awareness campaigns for the identification of breast cancer, the disease is still often diagnosed in advanced stages.

With new technologies, treatment, even late, has been made possible by drugs like Herceptin.

The Healthy Minute brings other information about remedies and treatments. Check out!

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