Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: October 27, 2005
Patients with Her2/neu positive breast cancer are considered to have higher risk disease, but have an additional therapy option in trastuzumab (Herceptin). Doctors would like to administer trastuzumab during the same time period as the radiation therapy, possible increasing the effect of the radiation while avoiding any delay in starting either therapy. The concern addressed by this study is: will the concurrent administration result in intolerable side effects? The study did find that several patients developed radiation pneumonitis (an inflammation of the lungs causing shortness of breath, cough and fever) earlier than usually expected. Despite this, the researchers felt the side effects seen were tolerable and similar to those seen with radiation alone. The study was small and the results presented here are after an average of only 26 months (range 6-37 months). Further studies are needed with larger numbers of patients and longer follow-up to evaluate long-term complications.