Posted on December 3rd, 2008 by
Class: Biologic therapy
Generic Name: Erlotinib (er-LOH-te-nib)
Trade Name: Tarceva™
For what conditions is this drug used? Erlotinib is FDA approved for the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer in patients that have been treated with at least one prior chemotherapy regimen. It has also been approved, in combination with the chemotherapy agent Gemzar(R) (gemcitabine), for the initial treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer, or pancreatic cancer that may not be surgically removed. If your doctor has prescribed this drug for a different condition, keep in mind that doctors have the ability to prescribe medication for conditions other than those for which the drug has been approved by the FDA and you should discuss this issue with your doctor.
What is the mechanism of action? Erlotinib is classified as an epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor. The epidermal growth factor receptor pathway is involved in regulating growth and replication of a cell. In many cancer cells, this pathway is abnormal and provides continual growth stimulation of a cell. Erlotinib blocks part of the epidermal growth factor receptor pathway so that the cellular growth signals are inhibited.
How is erlotinib given (administered)? Erlotinib is given in the form of a pill and is taken orally, typically once per day.
How are patients monitored? Patients will usually have scheduled meetings with their healthcare provider while being treated with erlotinib. Physical examinations, scans or other measures may be performed to assess side effects and response to therapy. Blood may be drawn to monitor functions of some organs, such as the liver. In addition, patients will have their lungs monitored, as a rare but serious side effect affecting the lungs may occur. If patients experience a sudden shortness of breath, cough and/or fever, they should contact their healthcare provider.
What are the common (occur in 30% or more of patients) side effects of treatment with erlotinib?
What are the less common (occur in 10% to 29% of patients) side effects of treatment with erlotinib?
What can patients do to help alleviate or prevent discomfort and side effects?
Are there any special precautions patients should be aware of before starting treatment?
When should patients notify their physician?
What is a package insert?
A package insert is required by the FDA and contains a summary of the essential scientific information needed for the safe and effective use of the drug for healthcare providers and consumers. A package insert typically includes information regarding specific indications, administration schedules, dosing, side effects, contraindications, results from some clinical trials, chemical structure, pharmacokinetics and metabolism of the specific drug. By carefully reviewing the package insert, you will get the most complete and current information about how to safely use this drug. If you do not have the package insert for the drug you are using, your pharmacist or physician may be able to provide you with a copy.
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