PURPOSE This study examined the effectiveness of early and prolonged mu4D5 (the murine form of trastuzumab/Herceptin) treatment in transgenic mice that overexpress human HER2 (huHER2), under the murine mammary tumor virus promoter, as a model of huHER2-overexpressing breast cancer. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN Mice were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups and received i.p. injections from 17 weeks of age until either 52 weeks of age or morbidity. Fourteen mice received 100 mg/kg mu4D5, 14 mice received 100 mg/kg antiherpes simplex virus glycoprotein D control antibody, and 11 mice received a diluent control. RESULTS High levels of huHER2 expression were detectable in mammary glands of young virgin founder mice. Mammary adenocarcinomas were frequently found in female founders and progeny at an average age of 28 weeks, with some progressing to metastatic disease. The incidence of mammary tumors was significantly reduced, and tumor growth inhibition was observed in mice receiving mu4D5 compared with control mice. In addition, Harderian gland neoplasms, highly associated with overexpression of huHER2 in this transgenic line, were entirely absent in the mu4D5 treatment group, indicating down-regulation of huHER2 in vivo activity. CONCLUSIONS Early intervention with mu4D5 was of benefit in our transgenic mice at high risk for developing huHER2-overexpressing breast cancer. This study suggests a potential benefit of early treatment with Herceptin in HER2-positive primary breast cancer.