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Gefitinib (Iressa)

Target and mechanism of action. This is a small molecule that binds to EGFR tyrosine kinase by blocking the function of the latter and consequently the signal transduction of cancer cell growth.

Indications: The drug was approved for the treatment of lung cancer in advanced stage non-small cell type, which is the most common representing 80% of all cases of lung cancer (approximately 1 million two hundred thousand cases per year in the world) which has progressed or not responded to prior chemotherapy containing cisplatin and taxotere. There are several studies underway to evaluate its use in other cancers (colorectal, breast and so on) and to confirm the data obtained on lung disease in which subsequent studies have shown positive results far less than it had been previously documented.

Mode of administration: it is administered orally, the recommended dose is 250 mg (=1 tablet) per day.

Most frequent side effects: skin reactions (folliculitis), diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, decrease appetite and weight, fatigue. A very rare but serious side effect is interstitial pulmonary fibrosis with respiratory distress may occur sometimes accompanied by cough and fever.

Trade name: Iressa (Astra Zeneca pharmaceutical company). The drug has received FDA approval on 05/05/2003 and is currently for sale in various countries including the United States of America, Japan, Australia and Switzerland. In the other European states has not yet been obtained the marketing authorization.

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