Targeted therapy for stomach cancer

Occasionally, a targeted therapy drug called trastuzumab (Herceptin®) is given with chemotherapy for advanced stomach cancer. Targeted therapy drugs interfere with the way cancer cells grow.

Trastuzumab only works for people with a stomach cancer that has high levels of a protein called HER2. About 1 in 5 people with stomach cancer (20%) have this. Tests can be done on tissue taken at a biopsy or during surgery to find out if the cancer cells have high levels of HER2.

Trastuzumab attaches to the HER2 proteins on the surface of the cancer cells. This stops the cancer cells from dividing and growing.

Trastuzumab is given as a drip (infusion) every three weeks. If it works well, your doctor may decide to carry on giving it after your chemotherapy has stopped. The side effects of trastuzumab are usually mild.

Some people may be offered treatment with a targeted therapy drug called ramucirumab.  Doctors are testing other targeted therapy drugs in clinical trials.