Erlotinib is a drug that has recently been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to treat pancreatic cancer. It has shown excellent results in patients with pancreatic cancer, having been previously tested in clinical trials with different outcomes. This type of drug is one of the latest options for treating pancreatic cancer, having gained approval from the FDA just recently. The Erlotinib molecule has the ability to selectively target one type of cell (that is, cancer cells) which has helped it to achieve success in clinical trials. Its use thus offers the hope of a cure for pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer generally invades the tissues surrounding the pancreatic capsule, which is the organ that produces insulin and metabolizes glucose in our body. Obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes are factors that put pancreatic cancer at higher risk. The disorder can either be malignant (which means it spreads to other parts of the body) or non-malignant (which does not spread). Malignant pancreatic cancer is more common and more difficult to treat. But in cases where the disease is caught at an early stage – say, when the patient’s health is already at risk but there are no apparent symptoms – surgery can be used to remove the tumor and save the life of the patient.
Surgery to treat pancreatic cancer is considered a last option because it offers the least treatment options available for the cancer. In addition, it is invasive, and therefore the recovery period can be long, complicated, and painful. But if the tumor is surgically removed, the cancer will most likely stop growing, and this can occur in just two to three months. This is why some doctors prefer to use Erlotinib as an alternative therapy to treat pancreatic cancer. Studies have shown that patients who took Erlotinib as a therapy to treat their pancreatic cancer had a higher survival rate than those who did not receive the therapy.
Erlotinib belongs to a category of drugs known as anti-angiogenesis agents. These drugs actually inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors by stopping the biological process that transforms cell DNA into cancerous tumors (also known as transcription). This is an important aspect of the treatment of cancer because cancer cells are characterized by the ability to turn “on” their transcription features when they are exposed to specific stimuli. These triggers are believed to be environmental, diet, and lifestyle related. Since Erlotinib targets the biological mechanism that allows cells to grow, it is thought to have significant potential for treating patients with pancreatic cancer.
Another study on Erlotinib like Neratinib was conducted by the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine. During a six month period, eighty patients with pancreas cancer who were undergoing follow up from surgery were monitored. At the end of the six month period, there was no significant difference between the groups in terms of survival rate or tumor volume reduction. Patients who received Erlotinib actually had a slightly higher tumor volume reduction (by one percent) than the placebo group. This result suggests that Erlotinib may be effective in blocking the transformation of cells to tumors in some people with pancreatic cancer.