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The function of a gene called the HER2/neu gene is to make HER2 protein. In healthy bodies this protein (from two HER2/neu genes) contributes to normal cell growth. When there is too much of this protein it can lead to uncontrolled cell growth (cancer). This is known as over expression for a protein. Trastuzumab is only used in patients who have over expression of the HER2 protein.

Herceptin binds to the HER2 protein like a lock and key model. It is a monoclonal antibody and it fits the shape of the binding site. The aim is to then prevent growth factor molecules from binding and causing unwanted cell growth.

This image was taken from her2eocancro/oquee.cfm.

Abnormal cells have more than the required 2 HER2/neu gene. Some cancers also have more surface receptors for the protein HER2. It has been confirmed that this defect is not inherited and thus must come about for other reasons in the person's lifetime. 

The HER2 protein is a part of the epidermal growth factor receptor family. This group have integral kinase activity. There is evidence for trastuzumab inducing cell cycle inhibitors and host immune responses. 

This picture (taken from: is showing the Herceptin monoclonal antibodies, along with chemotherapy, inhibiting cancerous cell growth.