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Trastuzumab (Herceptin)

Article Translations: (Spanish)

How does this medicine work?

Trastuzumab (trass-too-zoo-mab) is a monoclonal antibody. These are laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells anywhere in the body. Trastuzumab destroys cancer cells that produce the protein HER2.

How should I give it?

Trastuzumab is given into the vein (IV) in the hospital or clinic. The first dose is a 90-minute infusion. If this is tolerated, the infusion may be shortened to 30 minutes for the remaining doses.

Are there any precautions about food or other medicines?

Check with the doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist before giving any other prescription or non-prescription medicines. This includes vaccines.

What are the side effects?


  • fever, chills
  • shaking
  • nausea, vomiting
  • headache
  • rash
  • pain at tumor site
  • diarrhea
  • weakness


  • flu-like syndrome
  • numbness in hands and feet
  • bone or joint pain
  • loss of appetite
  • trouble sleeping
  • cough or runny nose
  • skin rash
  • wheezing
  • dizziness
  • numbness, tingling, or itching


  • decreased blood pressure
  • allergic reaction which can be life-threatening
  • lung toxicity
  • hemolytic uremic syndrome: a group of symptoms including fever, decreased kidney function, low hemoglobin and platelet counts
  • swelling of liver
  • heart damage
  • confusion
  • seizure
  • coma

When should I call the clinic?

  • fever or chills
  • sore throat
  • continued vomiting or diarrhea
  • severe rash or hives
  • yellowing of skin or eyes
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • blood in urine or stools
  • cloudy urine
  • less frequent urination
  • shortness of breath
  • increased coughing
  • swelling of hands or feet
  • signs of allergic reaction:
    • rash or hives
    • wheezing
    • trouble breathing - call 911

What else do I need to know?

Monitoring for allergic reactions will be done during the infusion.

Stay away from crowds or people with colds, flu, or other infections. It can be easier to get infections while on trastuzumab.

Trastuzumab can cause nausea and vomiting. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to help prevent this.

Blood samples may be needed to check the effects of the trastuzumab. Heart tests may be done if anthracycline (another chemotherapy medicine such as doxorubicin) is also being taken. Be sure to keep all appointments for tests.

For females of childbearing age: Do not get pregnant while you are taking trastuzumab. If you are sexually active, use an effective method of birth control. Do not breastfeed while you are being treated with trastuzumab.

You and your child should know the names of all the medicines he or she is taking. Share this information with anyone involved in your child's care.


This is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the oncology clinic or pharmacy.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Last reviewed 8/2015

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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