Chemo That's Head and Neck Over Cancer

Tarceva treats head and neck cancers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Doctors are always trying to find a competitive edge on any cancer, and finding new uses for current drugs is a common practice.

One of the newest types of of targeted chemotherapies, Tarceva (erlotinib), has been tested and found effective in several types of cancer so far, including lung and pancreatic cancer.

Researchers have recently proved that Tarceva is also effective in cancers of the head and neck, even when given for a short period of time.

Ask your oncologist about Tarceva.

A team from at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, N.C. looked at 11 head and neck cancer patients treated with Tarceva for an average of 18 days. Early scans showed a reduction in tumor size ranging from 50 to 90 percent.

Tarceva is able to stop cancer growth by targeting the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), which is a strong cancer marker. When the drug binds to the cell, further growth and division of the cancer stops.

“We hope our results will motivate clinicians to consider and investigate further the use of erlotinib in patients with head and neck cancer," lead author of the study, Mercedes Porosnicu, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center stated.

Like many forms of chemotherapy, rash, diarrhea, fatigue, hair loss and loss of appetite are common side effects. Tarceva has a monthly cost of $5,000-$10,000 depending on dosage.

The data was presented during January's Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposium 2012. These results are considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal.

The research was partially funded by OSI Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 29, 2012
Last Updated:
February 2, 2012