Esophagus Cancer Overview

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Treating Esophagus Cancer TOPICS

Targeted therapy for cancer of the esophagus

As researchers have learned more about the changes in cells that cause cancer, they have been able to find newer drugs that are aimed at (target) these changes. Targeted drugs work in a different way from standard chemo drugs. They often have different (and less severe) side effects.

A drug called trastuzumab (Herceptin®) that targets a certain protein (HER2) may help treat some esophagus cancers when used along with chemo. If you have esophagus cancer and cannot have surgery, your doctor may have your tumor biopsy samples tested for the HER2 gene or protein. Only cancers that have too much of the HER2 protein are likely to respond to this drug.

Trastuzumab is given into a vein (IV) once every 3 weeks along with chemo. The best length of time to give it is not yet known. The side effects are fairly mild and may include fever and chills, weakness, nausea, vomiting, cough, diarrhea, and headache. . Less often, this drug can cause heart damage, leading to the heart muscle becoming weak. Before starting treatment with this drug, your doctor may check your heart function.

Last Medical Review: 12/26/2012
Last Revised: 12/26/2012