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Lapatinib (Tyverb)

Find out what lapatinib is, how you have it and other important information about taking lapatinib.

Lapatinib is a targeted cancer drug (biological therapy) and is also known by its brand name, Tyverb. In North America it is called Tykerb.

It is a treatment for advanced breast cancer. Researchers are also looking at using it to treat other types of cancer.

How it works

Lapatinib is a type of targeted cancer drug (biological therapy) called a protein kinase inhibitor (TKI). It is a targeted treatment used for cancers that have large amounts of a protein called HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2).

Some breast cancers have large amounts of HER2. They are called HER2 positive cancers.

HER2 makes the cancer cells grow and divide. Lapatinib switches off HER2 to make the cells stop growing or die.

How Lapatinib Works:

Targeted therapy is the result of about 100 years of research dedicated to understanding the differences between cancer cells and normal cells.  To date, cancer treatment has focused primarily on killing rapidly dividing cells because one feature of cancer cells is that divide rapidly.  Unfortunately, some of our normal cells divide rapidly too, causing multiple side effects.

Targeted therapy is about identifying other features of cancer cells.  Scientists look for specific differences in the cancer cells and the normal cells.  This information is used to create a targeted therapy to attack the cancer cells without damaging the normal cells, thus leading to fewer side effects.  Each type of targeted therapy works a little bit differently but all interfere with the ability of the cancer cell to grow, divide, repair and/or communicate with other cells.

There are different types of targeted therapies, defined in three broad categories.  Some targeted therapies focus on the internal components and function of the cancer cell.  The targeted therapies use small molecules that can get into the cell and disrupt the function of the cells, causing them to die.  There are several types of targeted therapy that focus on the inner parts of the cells.   Other targeted therapies target receptors that are on the outside of the cell.   Antiangiogenesis inhibitors target the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the cells, ultimately causing the cells to starve.

Lapatinib belongs to the signal transduction inhibitor category of targeted therapies.  It particularly interferes with the protein-tyrosine kinases; Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR[ErbB1]) and of Human Epidermal Receptor type 2 (HER2 [ErbB2]).

What is lapatinib and how does it work?

Lapatinib is a targeted therapy drug. These drugs work by ‘targeting’ specific proteins (receptors) that make cancer cells grow. Lapatinib works by blocking the action of two proteins:

  • epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)
  • human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).

This can cause the cells to die or to grow more slowly. You may have tests to measure levels of EGFR or HER2 in the cancer cells. This is to find out if lapatinib is a helpful treatment for you.

Side Effects

Nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, mouth sores, mild rash, dry skin, and trouble sleeping may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

Diarrhea is a common side effect and may become severe. Tell your doctor right away if diarrhea occurs or if you have signs of a severe loss of body water (dehydration) such as dizziness or decreased urination. Your doctor should prescribe additional medication to help control your symptoms. If your diarrhea becomes severe, your doctor may need to stop or delay your lapatinib treatment.


Before starting lapatinib treatment, make sure you tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking (including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, herbal remedies, etc.). Do not take aspirin, products containing aspirin unless your doctor specifically permits this.

Lapatinib interacts with many common medications.  Be sure to notify your doctor before starting any new medications.

Do not receive any kind of immunization or vaccination without your doctor’s approval while taking lapatinib.

Inform your health care professional if you are pregnant or may be pregnant prior to starting this treatment. Pregnancy category D (lapatinib may be hazardous to the fetus. Women who are pregnant or become pregnant must be advised of the potential hazard to the fetus.)

For both men and women: Use contraceptives, and do not conceive a child (get pregnant) while taking lapatinib. Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, are recommended.

Do not breast feed while taking this medication.