Home  >  Health Encyclopedia  >  Health Encyclopedia Home

Health Encyclopedia


Health Encyclopedia Home

What Happens During Targeted Therapy for Breast Cancer

What Happens During Targeted Therapy for Breast Cancer

Herceptin (trastuzumab) is one of a group of drugs used in targeted therapy. Tykerb (lapatinib) and Perjeta (pertuzumab) are others that may be used to treat breast cancer. These drugs target a certain protein called HER2/neu (or HER2), which is found in larger than normal amounts on the surface of the breast cancer cells in most people. These targeted drugs can help slow the growth of these breast cancers.

Herceptin and Perjeta are given through an intravenous (IV) injection into your vein. It will take 30 to 90 minutes to get your full dose. You can usually have this done as an outpatient.

Tykerb is given as a pill that you take at home in two- or three-week cycles. It is taken once a day at least one hour before or one hour after a meal. 

Targeted therapy drugs work differently from standard chemotherapy drugs. Because they target particular cells, they tend to be less damaging to healthy cells than other types of treatment and usually have less severe side effects. Ask your doctor which side effects you are most likely to experience. Here is a list of possible side effects:

  • Chills

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Rashes

  • Trouble breathing

  • Vomiting

  • Weakness

If you have trouble breathing, leg swelling, or feel extremely tired, call your doctor right away. A possible serious side effect of these drugs is heart damage, which may lead to congestive heart failure. For many women, this is a short-term problem that gets better when the drug is stopped. It appears that the risks for heart problems are higher when certain chemotherapy drugs are given along with the more commonly targeted therapies used for breast cancer. 

You may find that most side effects are less severe after your first treatment. They usually go away or get better within a few weeks after your treatment ends. If you're having uncomfortable side effects, tell your doctor or nurse so that he or she can help you manage them. 

Related Items
Wellness Library
  Solving the Breast Cancer Puzzle
  Reducing Your Risk for Breast Cancer
  Certain Factors Help Predict Invasive Breast Cancer
  Hope on the Horizon for Breast Cancer
  Stay Healthy After Breast Cancer
Content Type 167
  CA 15-3
  CA 27-29
  Immunohistochemical Test for Estrogen and Progesterone Receptors
Cancer Source
  Sex and Cancer: Questions for Your Doctor
  Breast Cancer—Understanding Genetic Testing
  The Soy and Breast Cancer Controversy: Cause for Concern?
  The 'Chemobrain' Phenomenon in Breast Cancer
  MRIs for Breast Cancer Screening—Who Needs Them?
  Hormonal Therapy: Managing Side Effects in Women
  If You Are Having Hormonal Therapy
  What Is Breast Cancer?
  What to Know About Your Treatment Choices for Breast Cancer
  Ductal Carcinoma
  Statistics About Breast Cancer
  Can I Get Checked for Breast Cancer Before I Have Symptoms?
  What Can I Do if I Am at Risk for Breast Cancer?
  What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
  How Does My Doctor Know I Have Breast Cancer?
  Tests That Help Evaluate the Traits of Your Breast Cancer
  Understanding Your Grade and Stage of Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Surgery for Breast Cancer
  Breast Cancer: What Happens After Reconstructive Surgery
  Goal of Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
  Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment and Symptoms for Breast Cancer
  Finding Out You Have Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Combination Therapy for Breast Cancer
  How You Get Radiation for Breast Cancer
  What You Need to Know About Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  Tips for Feeling Your Best During Treatment for Breast Cancer
  Taking Care of Your Incision After Breast Surgery
  How Your Doctor Uses Biopsies to Make Your Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
  Understanding Your Type of Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
  Can I Survive Breast Cancer? What Is My Prognosis?
  Am I at Risk for Breast Cancer?
  Myths About What Causes Breast Cancer
  Questions to Ask About Treatment for Breast Cancer
  What to Expect After Surgery for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What to Expect After Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
  Making the Decision to Have Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  Ovarian Ablation as Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What to Expect After Taking Hormone Therapy Drugs for Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Targeted Therapy for Breast Cancer
  Making the Decision to Have Breast Reconstruction After a Mastectomy for Breast Cancer
  When Breast Cancer Spreads to the Bones
  Exercising After Breast Cancer: Moving Toward Health
  Aromatase Inhibitors for Breast Cancer
Cancer FAQs
  Breast Cancer FAQ
NCI Patient Summary
  Breast Cancer Treatment and Pregnancy (PDQ®)
  Breast Cancer Quiz
  Breast Cancer Risk Assessment
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (BCPT)
  Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer Treatment
  About Clinical Trials: Information from the National Cancer Institute
  How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
  General Information About Breast Cancer
  Other Treatments for Breast Cancer
  National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP)
  Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer Treatment
  Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
  Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
  Stages of Breast Cancer
  Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR)
  Breast Cancer Statistics
  About Taxol
  Breast Health: Three-Step Plan for Preventive Care
  Treatments for Breast Cancer
  Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (BRCA1/BRCA2)
  Genetics of Breast Cancer
  Breast Cancer Overview
  Should You Consider Preventive Drugs for Breast Cancer?
  Should You Be Tested for the Breast Cancer Gene?
Test and Procedures
  Breast Biopsy