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What is Tarceva (erlotinib)?

Tarceva (erlotinib) is a biologic drug used to treat lung cancer. Biologic drugs are designed to specifically target and interfere with some aspect of how tumor cells work. Erlotinib prevents the production of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a protein that helps tumor cells grow. It has been shown to help keep some lung cancer tumors under control, particularly in women and people who have never smoked. It is most frequently used for advanced lung cancers and lung cancers that have not responded to chemotherapy.

The medicine is a pill. The most common side effects are diarrhea, an acne-like rash on the face and chest, loss of appetite and fatigue.
Tarceva, which has the active ingredient erlotinib, is a drug used to treat non-small cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. For lung cancer, it is used when the cancer has advanced or has spread to other parts of the body and after other chemotherapy treatment has failed. When Tarceva is used to treat pancreatic cancer, it is used in combination with Gemzar (gemcitabine) to treat pancreatic cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. This medicine belongs to the class of drugs known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors. It works by blocking the action of abnormal proteins that signal cancer cells to multiply. It is this action that helps to slow down or stop the spread of cancer cells.

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