Side Effects of Perjeta

Updated: May 16, 2020

By Jasmine Shukla & Laura Carfang


Perjeta (also known as Pertumuzab) is an antibody used mainly in combination with Herceptin and Taxotere and/or Taxol, for treating the metastatic Human Epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (in short, HER2)  positive breast cancer. According to Soleja and Rimawi (2016) 15-20% of breast cancers have an over-expression of the HER2 protein. 

The antibody has a monoclonal nature, meaning it is composed of exactly similar immune cells that are clones of an individual or distinctive parent cell. It can also be used in the same amalgamation as a neoadjuvant therapy in early HER2-positive breast cancer. 

Perjeta is classified as a cytotoxic ( anti-cancer) chemotherapy drug which functions as an antineoplastic agent, thereby preventing or inhibiting development of a neoplasm/tumor. 

HER2 must be responsive to the drug for it to be effective and to ensure HER2’s responsiveness, four types of tests are conducted before starting to use it for  treatment. 

Testing for HER2

ImmunoHistoChemistry (IHC) : is used to check the amount of HER2 receptor protein present on the cancer cells surface.

Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) : tests whether the cancer is HER2-positive giving more accurate results than the IHC, but is comparatively expensive and takes more time to yield results. 

Subtraction Probe Technology Chromogenic In Situ Hybridization (SPoT-Light HER2 CISH): looks for the number of copies present in the tumor cells of HER2 gene present for a single tissue sample of breast cancer and is also simpler than the previous two mentioned.

Inform HER2 Dual In Situ Hybridization: uses a special kind of stain that can make the protein of HER2 change its color and can also be used on samples of tissues stored in wax or any other chemicals.  It is also less expensive and gives precise results.

Cells that spread cancer usually grow in a very uncontrolled manner.

A Perjeta drug presence on the surface of such cells blocks the signals of HER2, therefore either slowing down or stopping the growth of breast cancer. Moreover, it alerts the immune system in order to destroy the cells onto which the cancer cells have attached. 

Side Effects of Perjeta

Even though Perjeta is quite helpful in fighting breast cancer, there are certain side effects related to it.  The most common side effects observed in women, due to the use of Perjeta, is a condition of a low white blood cell (WBC) count which is also known is neutropenia, followed by nausea, fatigue, hair loss, rash, and numbness or tingling or burning in the hands or feet (known as peripheral neuropathy). 

Perjeta also may contribute to heart problems, which can be with or without displaying of any symptoms, such as reduced heart function or congestive heart failure respectively; this is one of the most serious side effects of taking this drug. 

In addition, taking Perjeta at the time of pregnancy may result in the demise of the unborn child or lead to certain birth defects, which suggests that birth control pills should be taken while undergoing this treatment.  Another possible negative impact of Perjeta occurs when the body is allergic to it. In such cases consequences may be fatal as it quickly spreads throughout the body, affecting many areas.  As Perjeta is injected directly into the vein, it could result in infusion related fatal reactions.

In conclusion it is dangerous to take Perjeta without proper consultation or even by ignoring the side effects until it aggravates and gets serious. Therefore conditions must be thoroughly investigated beforehand and all patients must experience a variety of blood and body tests prior to injection to verify and test Perjeta’s suitability and necessity. 

Interested in learning more, check out Laura video undergoing treatment:

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