Breast cancer patients on immunotherapy drug report nail, skin problems

December 16, 2015 | by Letisia Marquez

Women with HER2-positive breast cancer often receive the new immunotherapy drug pertuzumab in addition to the chemotherapy drug trastuzumab because that combination has been found to be especially effective against their type of cancer.

But City of Hope researchers have uncovered potential issues with that combination.

In a study of 28 women, about 30 percent ultimately reported skin or nail infections, City of Hope researchers found. Most of the infections resolved with treatment, but one 57-year-old woman developed a staph infection that led to sepsis and she died.

“A lot of these women have potentially curable disease, so no one should stop using pertuzumab,” said Joanne Mortimer, M.D., vice chair of medical oncology, director of the Women’s Cancers Program at City of Hope and the study’s lead author, who presented the study on Dec. 9 at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. “But doctors and patients should be aware of the problems because these infections can become serious.”

Two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of pertuzumab for HER2-positive breast cancer patients, and patients at City of Hope began receiving pertuzumab and trastuzumab shortly thereafter.

City of Hope researchers reported their findings on Dec. 9 at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

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Learn more about City of Hope's Breast Cancer Program. If you are looking for a second opinion or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-4673. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

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