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Optimal Erlotinib

optimal erlotinib


The OPTIMAL study was the first study to compare efficacy and tolerability of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) erlotinib, versus standard chemotherapy in first-line treatment of patients with EGFR mutation-positive advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Findings from final overall survival (OS) analysis and assessment of post-study treatment impact are presented.

What Erlotinib Is Used For

Treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).Treatment of patients with locally advanced, unresectable or metastatic pancreatic cancer.

How Erlotinib 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.

When to contact your doctor or health care provider

  • Contact your health care provider immediately, day or night, if you should experience any of the following symptoms:
  • Onset or worsening of unexplained shortness of breath or cough.
  • The following symptoms require medical attention, but are not an emergency.  Contact your health care provider within 24 hours of noticing any of the following:
  • Nausea (interferes with ability to eat and unrelieved with prescribed medication).
  • Vomiting (vomiting more than 4-5 times in a 24 hour period).
  • Diarrhea (4-6 episodes in a 24-hour period).
  • Extreme fatigue (unable to carry on self-care activities).
  • Mouth sores (painful redness, swelling or ulcers).

Side Effect

  • Rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Nausea and vomiting


The significant OS benefit observed in patients treated with EGFR-TKI emphasises its contribution to improving survival of EGFR mutant NSCLC patients, suggesting that erlotinib should be considered standard first-line treatment of EGFR mutant patients and EGFR-TKI treatment following first-line therapy also brings significant benefits to those patients.


Inform your health care professional if you are pregnant or may be pregnant prior to starting this treatment. Pregnancy category D (erlotinib 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: Do not conceive a child (get pregnant) while taking erlotinib. Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, are recommended. Discuss with your doctor when you may safely become pregnant or conceive a child after therapy.

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