Erlotinib (Tarceva®)

OncoLink Team
Last Modified: September 28, 2015

Pronounced: er-LOE-ti-nib

Classification: Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor About Erlotinib Erlotinib is a small molecule drug that inhibits tyrosine kinase, an enzyme associated with the human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). By inhibiting this enzyme, erlotinib prevents EGFRs from stimulating the uncontrolled growth of cells that contributes to tumor growth. How to Take Erlotinib Erlotinib comes as a tablet to take by mouth. It is usually taken on an empty stomach once a day, at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after eating a meal or snack. Take erlotinib at around the same time every day. Take the tablet whole, do not break, crush or chew.The blood levels of this medication can be affected by certain foods and medications, so they should be avoided. These include: grapefruit, grapefruit juice, verapamil, ketoconazole, rifampin, phenytoin, St. John's wort, and modafanil. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all medications and supplements you take.The levels of this medication can also be affected by medications used to treat heartburn. Do not take proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole, Nexium, Protonix, Prevacid) while on erlotinib. If you need to take an H2 blocker (tagamet, zantac, pepcid), these should be taken 10 hours before and 2 hours after erlotinib (for example, take erlotinib at 8am, take tagamet at 10am & 10pm). If you need to take antacids (Rolaids, tums), separate these from the erlotinib by several hours.The blood levels of this medication can also be impacted by cigarette smoking.

About Erlotinib (Tarceva®)

Erlotinib is a small molecule drug that inhibits tyrosine kinase, an enzyme associated with the human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). By inhibiting this enzyme, erlotinib prevents EGFRs from stimulating the uncontrolled growth of cells that contributes to tumor growth.

This medication can cause a tear in the intestinal wall, also called a gastrointestinal perforation. Signs of this can include: new or worsening pain in the abdomen, new abdominal swelling, chills, fever, constipation, nausea or vomiting. If you experience any of these, contact your healthcare provider immediately or go to the emergency room.

Lung Changes

Erlotinib can cause lung problems, including interstitial lung disease. Call your physician right away if you have shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or fever.

Liver Toxicity

This medication can cause liver toxicity, which your doctor may monitor for using blood tests called liver function tests. Notify your healthcare provider if you notice yellowing of the skin or eyes, your urine appears dark or brown or pain in your abdomen, as these can be signs of liver toxicity.

Heart Attack and Stroke

Erlotinib can increase the risk of stroke and heart attack. If you experience symptoms of these problems, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately or go to an emergency room. Symptoms can include: chest pain or pressure, pain in your arm, back, neck or jaw, shortness of breath, numbness or weakness on one side of the body, trouble talking, confusion or mental status changes.

Reproductive Concerns

Exposure of an unborn child to this medication could cause birth defects, so you should not become pregnant or father a child while on this medication. Effective birth control is necessary during treatment and for at least 2 weeks after treatment. Even if your menstrual cycle stops or you believe you are not producing sperm, you could still be fertile and conceive. You should consult with your healthcare team before breastfeeding while receiving this medication.

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