This page tells you about the biological therapy drug pertuzumab and its possible side effects. There are sections about
Pertuzumab (pronounced per-chew-zoo-mab) is a type of monoclonal antibody. It is known by its brand name Perjeta. It also used to be called Omnitarg.
Pertuzumab is a treatment for breast cancer. It is used before surgery for early breast cancer. It is also used for breast cancer that has spread (secondary breast cancer) or breast cancer that has come back in the breast (recurrent breast cancer). You have it in combination with the biological therapy trastuzumab (Herceptin) and the chemotherapy drug docetaxel (Taxotere).
Pertuzumab is also used in clinical trials for other types of cancers such as ovarian cancer and prostate cancer.
Pertuzumab targets the protein HER2, which is found on the surface of some cancer cells. HER2 protein encourages cells to grow. Pertuzumab stops HER2 joining to other HER proteins so the cell doesn't receive messages telling it to grow. Pertuzumab only works for cancers that have large amounts of the HER2 protein.
You have pertuzumab into your bloodstream (intravenously). You can have it through a thin, short tube (a cannula) put into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment. Or you may have it through a central line, a portacath, or a PICC line. These are long, plastic tubes that give the drugs directly into a large vein in your chest. You have the tube put in before or during your course of treatment and it stays in place as long as you need it.
You can read our information about having cancer drugs.
You have the first treatment over an hour. If this goes well you can have the next treatments over 30 to 60 minutes. You have pertuzumab once every 3 weeks.
You have blood tests before starting treatment and regularly during your treatment. The tests check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.
We've listed the side effects associated with pertuzumab. You can use the links to find out more about each side effect. Where there is no link, please go to our information about cancer drug side effects or use the search box at the top of the page.
You may have a few side effects. They may be mild or more severe. A side effect may get better or worse through your course of treatment. Or more side effects may develop as the course goes on. This depends on
- How many times you've had the drug before
- Your general health
- The amount of the drug you have (the dose)
The side effects may be different if you are having pertuzumab with other medicines.
Tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist straight away if any of the side effects get severe.
Because pertuzumab is a relatively new drug we are still learning about the side effects, especially longer term ones. Always tell your doctor or specialist nurse if you have a new symptom or side effect. They can decide whether it is due to the drug or to something else. They can then work out how to help you.
More than 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these side effects
- An increased risk of getting an infection from a drop in white blood cells – it is harder to fight infections and you can become very ill. You may have headaches, aching muscles, a cough, a sore throat, pain passing urine or you may feel cold and shivery. Contact your treatment centre straight away if you have any of these effects
- Tiredness and breathlessness from a drop in red blood cells (anaemia) – you may need a blood transfusion
- Bruising more easily from a drop in platelets – you may have nosebleeds, bleeding gums after brushing your teeth, or lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs (known as petechia)
- Diarrhoea occurs in about 6 out of 10 people (60%) – drink plenty of fluids and tell your doctor or nurse if diarrhoea becomes severe or continues for more than 3 days
- Tiredness happens in 3 in 10 people (30%) during and after treatment – most people find their energy levels are back to normal within 6 months to a year
- Feeling or being sick affects about 2 out of every 10 people (20%) but this is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines
- Pain in your tummy (abdomen), bones or muscles – let your doctor or nurse know if you have this
- A skin reaction happens in 2 out of 10 people (20%) – you may have a rash similar to acne on your face, neck and trunk or your skin may be dry and itchy
- Loss of appetite
- A sore mouth affects just over 2 out of 10 people (20%)
- Constipation occurs in 2 out of 10 people (20%) – your doctor or nurse may give you laxatives to help prevent this but do tell them if you are constipated for more than 3 days
- Difficulty sleeping
- Taste changes
- Swollen legs due to fluid build up (known as peripheral oedema)
- Loss of fertility – we don’t know exactly how this drug affects your ability to father a child or become pregnant. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you will want to have a baby in the future
- An allergic reaction while having the treatment, causing a high temperature (fever), chills, shivering (rigors), a headache and feeling sick. Just under 1 in 10 people (10%) have a more severe reaction, with wheezing, an itchy rash and a drop in blood pressure. Your nurse will give you medicines before treatment to try to prevent a reaction. They will stop or slow your drip if you have a reaction
- Nail changes
Between 1 and 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these effects.
- Watery, itchy eyes
- Breathlessness and a cough
- Heart problems happen in a few people and should get better once treatment stops. You will have heart tests before you start treatment and regularly throughout your treatment. You may not be able to have this drug if you already have particular heart conditions such as congestive heart failure or angina
Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all your side effects so that they can help you manage them. Your nurse will give you a contact number to ring if you have any questions or problems. If in doubt, call them.
Tell your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. Some drugs can react together.
Pregnancy and contraception
This drug may have a harmful effect on a developing baby. It is not advisable to become pregnant during treatment or for 6 months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about contraception before starting treatment.
Don't breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in the breast milk.
You shouldn't have immunisations with live vaccines while you are having treatment or for at least 6 months afterwards. In the UK, these include rubella, mumps, measles (usually given together as MMR), BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).
You can have other vaccines, but they may not give you as much protection as usual until your immune system has fully recovered from your treatment. It is safe to have the flu vaccine.
It is safe for you to be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections. There can be problems with vaccines you take by mouth (oral vaccines), but not many people in the UK have these now. So there is usually no problem in being with any baby or child who has recently had any vaccination in the UK. You might need to make sure that you aren't in contact with anyone who has had oral polio, cholera or typhoid vaccination recently, particularly if you live abroad.
This information doesn't list all the very rare side effects of this treatment that are very unlikely to affect you. For further information look at the Electronic Medicines Compendium website at www.medicines.org.uk/emc.
If you have a side effect not mentioned here that you think may be due to this treatment you can report it to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) at yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk.
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