Tarceva in Brain Cancer Trial

Tarceva in Brain Cancer Trial

Drugs that might help in brain tumour and brain cancer survival

Tarceva, or Erlotinib works against Epidermal growth factor, EGFR, and has now been used in cancers such as non-small cell lung cancer and primary brain cancer, and secondary brain cancer.

Back in 2003 we published a story that an experimental drug Tarceva or Erlotinib was about to go into test against brain cancer in 4 Cancer Centres in the USA (Anderson, UCLA, UCSF and Dukes). 110 patients were being recruited.

Encouraging results were obtained at stage 1 trials on Glioblastoma (GBM) patients, with the blocking of epidermal growth factor (EGFR), which is critical to cell growth in many cancers.

Only mild side-effects were noted (skin rash and diarrhoea). Manufacturers claim that Tarceva is very targeted and has no secondary effect on surrounding cells and bone marrow unlike other brain tumour drugs.

More than ten years on, Tarceva is approved - it is used with both primary, and secondary brain tumours. 2005 research(1) showed it could shrink brain tumours. However, on its own, the benefits are not huge(2).

Since Tarceva or erlotinib works against EGFR, it is used with non-small cell lung cancer patients. Where they have secondary brain metastases, Tarceva can be used there too.

But one of the biggest developments(3) has been that Tarceva used in combination with Temodar (Temozolomide) and radiation can increase survival times. The median progression-free time rose from 4.9 months to 8.2 months.

Go To: Brain Cancer overview

Current drug treatments for brain cancer include Temozolomide, Avastin, Gleevec and PCV. None cures. All drugs have trouble crossing the blood brain barrier which is why there has been so much interest in natural compounds. 

All these drugs can be found in our A to Z guide to drugs and chemotherapy. 

The most interesting areas of development include virotherapy and vaccines. A brain cancer vaccine has been developed by Dr. Orin Bloch at Northwestern, and this does increase survival times significantly.

Go To: Brain cancer vaccine


(1) Mellinghoff IK, Wang MY, Vivanco I, et al. Molecular determinants of the response of glioblastomas to EGFR kinase inhibitors. New England Journal of Medicine. 2005;353(19):2012-24.

(2) Raizer, J., Abrey, L., Lassman, A., Chang, S., Lamborn, K., Kuhn, J., Yung, W., Gilbert, M., Aldape, K., Wen, P., Fine, H., Mehta, M., DeAngelis, L., Lieberman, F., Cloughesy, T., Robins, H., Dancey, J. & Prados, M. (2010). A phase II trial of erlotinib in patients with recurrent malignant gliomas and nonprogressive glioblastoma multiforme postradiation therapy. Neurooncol, 12, 95-103.

(3) Prados MD, Chang SM, Butowski N, et al. Phase II study of erlotinib plus temozolomide during and after radiation therapy in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme or gliosarcoma. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2009; 27:579-584.

2016 Research
CancerAcitve Logo
Subscribe (Free e-Newsletter)

Join Chris'

Join Chris' NewsletterSignup today for free and be the first to get notified on new updates.