Brand Names

Tarceva® (There may be other brand names for this medication)

How is It Administered?

This medication is a tablet taken by mouth on an empty stomach, 1 hour before OR 2 hours after eating.

Why am I Taking Erlotinib?

This drug is used to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and advanced pancreatic cancer.

How Does This Drug Work?

Erlotinib is a type of targeted therapy rather than a traditional chemotherapy drug. Traditional chemotherapy drugs identify cancer cells by their rapid rate of reproduction, and then attack those cells. Since there are many cells in our bodies that normally reproduce rapidly, these cells are also affected, resulting in unpleasant side effects.

Erlotinib is designed to work differently. Instead of attacking rapidly reproducing cells, it locates a protein (EGFR or Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) on the surface of the cancer cells and inhibits an enzyme within those cells, which slows the growth of the cancer cells. The exact mechanism of how this takes place is not yet understood. (There are some normal cells that have EGFR on their surface and these cells may be affected.)

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