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BCNA News 15 Apr 2016

New form of Herceptin available on the PBS

A new form of Herceptin that is easier and quicker to administer than the standard intravenous (IV) drip has been listed on the PBS for people with HER2-positive breast cancer.

The new form, called Herceptin SC, is administered as an injection into the tissue under the skin in the thigh (subcutaneous injection). The injection takes between 2 and 5 minutes to deliver, compared with between 30 and 90 minutes for an IV infusion. Like the IV form, it is given every three weeks and is available for all people with HER2-postive breast cancer.

Clinical trials have shown that the new form of Herceptin is safe and just as effective as the IV version. A major difference between the two forms is that Herceptin SC is a fixed dose, so every woman will receive the same amount of Herceptin each treatment. With the IV version, the dose is dependent on a woman’s body weight.

It is important to know that the PBS listing specifies that Herceptin SC must be prepared by a health professional and can only be administered by a doctor or nurse. You will not able to administer it yourself at home. Trials looking at the safety of self-administration are being undertaken.

Herceptin SC has a number of advantages, including less time spent in hospital and less travel time if you live in a rural area and can arrange with your oncologist to receive Herceptin at a local clinic or treatment centre. Herceptin SC may also appeal to you if you work, are planning to travel during treatment or have veins that become sore or hard to access after chemotherapy treatment. The option to have Herceptin as an injection may also mean that you can avoid having a porta-cath or PICC line inserted.

If you are receiving Herceptin treatment and are interested in knowing whether Herceptin SC is right for you, you should speak with your medical oncologist.