Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Less Toxic Treatment for Aggressive Breast Cancers?

Newer Chemo Regimen, With Added Herceptin, May Be Less Damaging to the Heart

Adding Herceptin to Chemotherapy continued...

The study randomly assigned 3,222 women with early-stage HER-2 positive tumors to one of three treatment groups. The first group was given a standard cocktail of three chemotherapy drugs that all slow or stop the growth of rapidly dividing cells -- doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide, followed by docetaxel.

Doxorubicin is a type of drug called an anthracycline, and it's sold under the brand names Adriamycin, Doxil, and Rubex. Like Herceptin, doxorubicin can damage the heart. Using the two drugs together increases that danger.

The second group got the same three-drug regimen along with a year of Herceptin.

The third group was given docetaxel and a newer drug called carboplatin along with a year of Herceptin.

The study found that adding Herceptin increased the odds that a woman would still be alive and cancer-free more than five years after treatment. It didn't seem to matter whether she was on the standard, more toxic regimen or the newer, less toxic drugs.

Overall, 87% of the women on the standard, three-drug combination were still alive and 75% were cancer-free more than five years later, while 92% of the women were still alive and 84% were cancer-free when Herceptin was added to that treatment.

Of the women on the newer, two-drug regimen with added Herceptin, 91% were still alive and 81% were cancer-free more than five years later.

The differences between the two groups that got Herceptin were not statistically significant.

The benefit for Herceptin was seen whether tumors were small or large and even in women who had positive lymph nodes, indicating that their cancer had spread.

Fewer Side Effects

The biggest difference came when researchers looked at side effects patients experienced.

Patients on the newer, two-drug combination had less joint and muscle pain, less irritation and peeling of the skin and mucous membranes, and less vomiting. There were also fewer reports of low white blood cell counts in the group on the two-drug regimen.

Seven patients on the three-drug regimen developed leukemia, compared to one patient on the newer regimen, but that patient had received another drug, an agent linked with leukemia, outside the study to treat another cancer that arose after her breast cancer.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow