erlotinib, Tarceva

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is erlotinib, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Erlotinib is a synthetic (man-made) oral drug that is used for treating cancer. It is approved for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

There are more than 1.2 million cases worldwide of lung cancer each year, causing one death every 3 seconds. According to the National Cancer Institute, lung cancer is responsible for nearly 30% of cancer deaths in the US. NSCLC is the most common form of lung cancer and accounts for almost 80% of all the cases.

Many cells, including cancer cells, have receptors on their surfaces for epidermal growth factor (EGF), a protein that is normally produced by the body and that promotes the growth and multiplication of cells. When EGF attaches to epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFRs), it causes an enzyme called tyrosine kinase to become active within the cells. Tyrosine kinase triggers chemical processes that cause the cells, including cancer cells, to grow, multiply, and spread. Erlotinib attaches to EGFRs, blocking the attachment of EGF and the activation of tyrosine kinase. This mechanism for stopping cancer cells from growing and multiplying is very different from the mechanisms of chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. Erlotinib was approved by the FDA in November of 2004.

What brand names are available for erlotinib?

Tarceva

Do I need a prescription for erlotinib?

Yes

What are the side effects of erlotinib?

The most common side effects of erlotinib are:

Any of these can occur in about half of all patients who receive the medicine, but these effects are usually mild. There have been rare reports of serious lung disease, including deaths, in patients receiving erlotinib for treatment of NSCLC or other tumors.

Other important side effects include:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/21/2015

Quick GuidePancreatic Cancer Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
FDA Logo

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

See more info: erlotinib on RxList
RxList Logo

Need help identifying pills and medications?

Use the pill identifier tool on RxList.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Cancer Report Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors