Tarceva is a medicine prescribed to patients suffering from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It is meant for people with advanced- stage NSCLC whose cancer has not spread or grown after the initial treatment with some types of chemotherapy. In other words, the medicine may also be used with patients as a maintenance drug, provided the tumor has not grown during the initial treatment. Tarceva is not a chemotherapy drug and becomes the second or third in-line treatment if the previous chemotherapies have not worked.
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (HER1/ EGFR), is a specific protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells. Tarceva is a targeted cancer medicine that inhibits the growth of EGFR.
This medicine is taken orally on an empty stomach or as prescribed by the practitioner. The dosage should not be altered like taken in small or larger quantities than recommended.
It is most of the time recommended that the medicine should be taken at least an hour or two before the meals. The chances of side effects increase if Tarceva is taken along with food.
- Pregnant women should not take Tarceva as it is FDA pregnancy category D drug and known to cause harmful effects to the unborn baby.
- Women under the medication of Tarceva, should take effective birth control measures and take a break of at least two weeks before planning pregnancy.
- The effects on a nursing baby are not known till date, so preferably this drug should be avoided while breastfeeding.
- People who either smoke or are dehydrated, should check with the doctor first before taking this drug. Smoking is known to hinder with the working of Tarceva, so either smoking has to be quit or dose adjustment or special tests may be required, if smoking is to be continued.
- Patients suffering from kidney, liver or lung ailments other than lung cancer, should also take this preparation under medical supervision as dose adjustment or special tests may be required here too.
- Exposure to sunlight or tanning beds should be avoided, as Tarceva might cause skin rashes, dryness, or other irritations on exposure to sunlight. It is always advisable to wear protective clothing along with a sunscreen of SPF 30 and above before moving out in sun.
- In case the patient is allergic to erlotinib, then also Tarceva should be avoided.
- This medicine reacts with many drugs, so before starting the course, a doctor should be told about all the medicines the patient is already taking.
- Some patients who have been administered Tarceva, experienced difficulty with blood clotting and bleeding events which also included gastrointestinal and non- gastrointestinal bleeding. Such population which is under the influence of blood thinners should be on constant vigil for any side effects of the medicine.
The drug is working or not is determined by regular blood tests. This will also determine the duration of Tarceva. This medicine may not be the right medicine for patients in general, so it should be taken only as advised by medical practitioner.