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Biological therapy for oesophageal cancer

This page tells you about biological therapy for cancer of the area where the food pipe meets the stomach (the oesophago gastric junction). You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Biological therapies for oesophageal cancer

Biological therapies are drugs that help the body to control the growth of cancer cells. Doctors use a biological therapy called trastuzumab (Herceptin) as a first treatment for some people with adenocarcinoma of the oesophago gastric junction that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced cancer). You have it with chemotherapy.

Herceptin only works for people whose cancer cells have a lot of a particular type of protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Your doctor will test your cancer cells for the HER2 protein.

You have Herceptin into your bloodstream in combination with the chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and capecitabine or fluorouracil.

The most common side effects of Herceptin are tiredness, a mild allergic reaction to the drug, and diarrhoea.
 

CR PDF Icon View a summary of treating oesophageal cancer.

 

 

What biological therapy is

Biological therapies are drugs that can help the body to control the growth of cancer cells.

 

Herceptin for advanced oesophageal cancer

Doctors can use a biological therapy known as trastuzumab (Herceptin) as a first treatment for some people with adenocarcinoma of the oesophago gastric junction that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced cancer). You have it with chemotherapy.

Herceptin only works for people whose cancer cells have a lot of a particular type of protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). If your doctor thinks that Herceptin could be a helpful treatment for you they will test your cancer cells first to see if they have a lot of HER2 protein.

You have Herceptin in combination with the chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and capecitabine (Xeloda) or fluorouracil. Herceptin cannot cure advanced oesophageal cancer but trials have shown that it can help people to live longer than chemotherapy alone.

You have Herceptin every 3 weeks as a drip into your bloodstream.You have it for as long as it is controlling the cancer.

 

Side effects of Herceptin

The most common side effects of Herceptin include

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any of these effects as you can have medicines to help to control them. You may have other side effects caused by the chemotherapy that you have alongside the Herceptin.

Herceptin can cause some damage to the heart and you will have regular checks to see how well your heart is working.

The cancer drug section has detailed information about the side effects of Herceptin and how they can be managed.

 

Other biological therapies for advanced oesophageal cancer

Researchers are looking at other biological therapies in trials for cancers of the oesophagus or oesophago gastric junction, such as bevacizumab (Avastin). But we don’t yet know how well these treatments will work. All new treatments have to go through the clinical trials process and this takes some years. Some research is looking into using biological therapies alongside chemotherapy to see how they work best together.

There is information about research into biological therapies for oesophageal cancer on the oesophageal cancer research page.

To search for oesophageal cancer trials, visit our clinical trials database and select 'oesophagus (food pipe) cancer' from the dropdown menu of cancer types.

 

Getting more information

We have detailed information about biological therapies on our website. You can ask your doctor or specialist nurse for written information.

You can also email our cancer information nurses or call them from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm on freephone 0808 800 4040. They will be happy to help.

Our oesophageal cancer organisations page has details of organisations that can put you in touch with a cancer support group. Our oesophageal cancer reading list has information about books, leaflets and CDs on oesophageal cancer treatments.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use CancerChat, our online forum.

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Updated: 22 April 2014