Erlotinib blocks a substance called the
epidermal growth factor that helps some cancer cells grow and reproduce.
Erlotinib is a medicine that is taken by mouth (oral).
Erlotinib slows or stops the growth
and spread of cancer cells in the body. It is used to treat cancers such as pancreatic cancer or non-small cell lung cancer. This medicine may be used with chemotherapy or if a person's cancer has not responded to chemotherapy.
Erlotinib is an effective antitumor
medicine. But the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively
this medicine slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body. Erlotinib works best in people who have changes (mutations) in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR).1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
In rare cases, erlotinib can cause a serious lung problem
called interstitial lung disease. Immediately report any shortness of breath or cough to your oncologist.
Common side effects of this medicine include:
If a blood thinner (anticoagulant) such as Coumadin is also
being taken, blood clotting tests should be watched closely to be sure there
is not an increased risk of serious bleeding.
See Drug Reference
for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all
Erlotinib should be administered
only under the supervision of a
You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after taking this medicine. Talk with your doctor about fertility before starting treatment.
Medicines can be used to prevent
or reduce nausea and vomiting side effects of chemotherapy.
Skin rashes are a common problem when taking this medicine. Try using a moisturizer several times a day. Seeing a dermatologist may help.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
CitationsBurtness B, et al. (2009). NCCN Task Force Report: Management of dermatologic and other toxicities associated with EGFR inhibition in patients with cancer. Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, 7(Suppl 1): S5–S24.
September 12, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
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