Perjeta is the brand name of the drug pertuzumab, used in the treatment of breast cancer. It works on the surface of a cancer cell, blocking chemical signals that would otherwise stimulate the uncontrolled growth characteristic of cancer cells.
Some people being treated with Perjeta experience side effects such as muscle or joint pain, chills, and rash that should be immediately brought to the attention of the healthcare provider administering treatment.
Perjeta isn’t a suitable medication for everyone undergoing breast cancer treatment. The following are considered candidates for treatment with this medication:
- People with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Perjeta isn’t appropriate for those who have already been treated with chemotherapy or anti-HER2 therapy for their metastatic disease.
- People with HER2-positive early stage cancer who haven’t yet undergone surgery. The cancer must be in the lymph nodes or larger than 2 cm (about 4/5 of an inch).
- People with HER2-positive breast cancer that is inflammatory or locally advanced. These candidates haven’t yet had surgery.
- People with HER2-positive early-stage breast cancer who’ve already had surgery and also have a high recurrence risk.
What is HER2-positive breast cancer?
HER2-positive breast cancer is a breast cancer that tests positive for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. HER2 is a protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells. This type of breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than other types.
What is metastatic breast cancer?
Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to a different part of the body, away from the breast where it started.
Perjeta is approved to be used with both trastuzumab (Herceptin) and docetaxel (Taxotere) for HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.
It’s also used with Herceptin and chemotherapy for HER2-positive breast cancer that is early stage, inflammatory, or locally advanced.
Perjeta is commonly given every three weeks as an intravenous (IV) infusion. During the same visit, the person getting treatment will typically also be given Herceptin and chemotherapy.
For HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer
Perjeta is commonly given every three weeks as an IV infusion. During the same visit, Herceptin and docetaxel are typically administered as well.
If it’s likely that your cancer will come back, your doctor might recommend Perjeta along with Herceptin every three weeks by IV infusion.
The most common side effects of Perjeta include:
- risk of infection
- muscle or joint pain
- brittle fingernails or toenails
- hair loss
- low white blood cell count (neutropenia)
- sore mouth
- peripheral neuropathy
- bleeding gums
- swollen legs
- loss of appetite
- change in taste
Talk to your doctor about the side effects you experience. They will know if your reaction is one to be concerned about. They might also have suggestions on how to control certain side effects.
If you have been prescribed Perjeta, you doctor will evaluate your cardiac function throughout treatment, monitoring for:
- left ventricular dysfunction, which occurs when the left ventricle loses its ability to relax normally
- decreased left ventricular ejection fraction, which refers to the amount of blood being pumped out of the left ventricle
- congestive heart failure, in which fluid builds up around the heart and causes it to pump inefficiently
Perjeta can cause birth defects and embryo death.
If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of treatment.
If you aren’t pregnant, it’s important not to become pregnant while being treated with Perjeta. Your doctor will talk to you about effective birth control while taking this medication.
There is a chance that you could have an allergic reaction to Perjeta. Call your healthcare provider should you experience allergic reaction symptoms.
A severe allergic reaction might include:
If you’re having an allergic reaction, your healthcare provider will most likely stop the IV infusion and deal with your symptoms.
Perjeta is a strong medication to battle a tough condition. If you have HER2-positive breast cancer, there is a good chance that your doctor will discuss this drug with you because it specifically targets this type of cancer.
According to the Mayo Clinic, treatments that target HER2 are “so effective that the prognosis for HER2-positive breast cancer is actually quite good.”
If Perjeta is included in your doctor’s treatment recommendations, talk to them about potential side effects both during and following treatment.