Targeted Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

As researchers have learned more about the changes in pancreatic cancer cells that help them grow, they have developed newer drugs to specifically target these changes. These targeted drugs work differently from standard chemo drugs. Sometimes they work when standard chemo drugs don’t, and they often have different side effects. (See What’s New in Pancreatic Cancer Research? for more information.)

Erlotinib (Tarceva) is a drug that targets a protein on cancer cells called EGFR, which normally helps the cells grow. In people with advanced pancreatic cancer, this drug can be given along with the chemo drug gemcitabine. Some people may benefit more from this combination than others. Common side effects of erlotinib include an acne-like rash on the face and neck, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and feeling tired.

More information about targeted therapy

To learn more about how targeted drugs are used to treat cancer, see Targeted Cancer Therapy.

To learn about some of the side effects listed here and how to manage them, see Managing Cancer-related Side Effects.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma. V.1.2019. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/pancreatic.pdf on December 6, 2018.

Ryan DP. Chemotherapy for advanced exocrine pancreatic cancer. UpToDate website. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/chemotherapy-for-advanced-exocrine-pancreatic-cancer. Updated Nov 19, 2018. Accessed December 6, 2018.

Last Medical Review: February 11, 2019 Last Revised: February 11, 2019

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