Gwen’s best of SABCS 2011: Blood test predicts risk of heart problems after trastuzumab (Herceptin)

by Gwen on January 8, 2012

© 2012 Carl H. Stritter All rights reserved.

You can find an overview of the most important presentations of the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium here.

Poster #5-20-02 by I. Blancas and others

Significant heart problems develop in about 25% of those taking trastuzumab. Early identification is important to minimize the risk of overt heart failure.

In this study, measuring a blood protein called NT-proBNP (aka N-terminal pro-brain b-type natriuretic peptide) helped identify who was at most risk for this side effect.

40 patients had their blood checked for the protein before and during trastuzumab therapy. NT-proBNP was higher in those who had heart problems. If the test result was < 600 pg/ml, there was a 98% chance of having normal heart function. On the other hand, those who had results > 600 pg/ml had a 99% chance of having impaired cardiac function.

This bolsters the results of a study done in 2006 where the same test predicted trastuzumab-related cardiac toxicity.[1]

Importantly, this is a simple blood test that can be done at many medical centers. It costs around $200.

Caveat: this is a small study. Because of the cost of the test, many insurance companies may not cover it until larger clinical trials are done

Please see references below.

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*Information on the Breast Equity blog is provided on an “as is” basis for general information only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional.*

© 2012 Gwendolyn M Stritter, MD. All rights reserved.


[1]Indium-111-labeled trastuzumab scintigraphy in patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive metastatic breast cancer by P. J. Perik and others. You can find this research paper here

© 2012, Gwen. All rights reserved.

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