Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My sister has stage IV breast cancer and is being treated with Herceptin and Tamoxifen. Assuming the treatment continues to work effectively, is taking Herceptin long after the chemotherapy treatment is over considered risky?
Kevin Fox, MD Assistant Director, Clinical Affairs and Associate Professor of Hematology/Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:
The safety of long-term Herceptin treatment is unknown because the medication is so new. The longest stretches of Herceptin treatment alone reported in the literature approach two years. Unanticipated problems have not emerged to date, but studies are ongoing. We generally recommend close cardiac monitoring with evaluation of ejection fraction every two to three months because cardiac toxicity has been reported in patients receiving chemotherapy at the same time as Herceptin.