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Herceptin (Molecule of the Month for August 2005)


Herceptin is an anti-cancer therapy that acts on the epidermal growth factor receptor. Its principal use is in breast cancer in patients whose tumors overexpress this receptor. Herceptin is administered either once a week or once every three weeks intravenously for 30 to 90 minutes.

Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody which binds to its extracellular segment of the erbB2 epidermal growth factor receptor . Cells treated with Herceptin experience a reduction in growth.

The biotech company Genentech gained FDA approval for trastuzumab in September 1998. The drug was jointly developed by that company, where the antibody was first discovered by scientists that included Dr Axel Ullrich, and the Jonsson Cancer Center at UCLA, where Dr Dennis Slamon subsequently worked further on trastuzumab's development. In the clinical trials leading up to trastuzumab's approval 42% of percent taking Herceptin in combination with the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel had significance responses. The comparable rate for the taxane alone was only 16%.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)



Picture of Herceptin

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Herceptin structure
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Picture of Herceptin

Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for August 2005 )