Cancer Home > Gefitinib

If you have non-small cell lung cancer that has not responded adequately to other chemotherapy treatment, your healthcare provider may recommend a medication called gefitinib. This prescription medicine works by preventing cancer cells from growing and dividing. It comes as a tablet that is taken once a day. Most people taking this drug will develop some type of side effect, such as nausea or diarrhea.

What Is Gefitinib?

Gefitinib (Iressa®) is a prescription medication approved to treat a certain type of lung cancer known as non-small cell lung cancer. It is used after other treatments have been tried but failed to adequately control the cancer. It belongs to a broad group of medicines known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Specifically, it is an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor.
Gefitinib has been studied in combination with standard chemotherapy for the first-line treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. First-line treatment is treatment that is recommended for initial use. Gefitinib has also been studied in people whose non-small cell lung cancer worsened despite other treatment, as well as in people who could not tolerate other treatment. However, these studies showed that gefitinib did not help people with non-small cell lung cancer live longer.
Other treatments have been shown to help people with non-small cell lung cancer live longer, including other EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors, such as erlotinib (Tarceva®), and these other treatments should be tried before gefitinib. For this reason, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limited the use of gefitinib to people who were already taking the drug and were benefiting from it, or for those who had previously benefited from gefitinib treatment.
The manufacturer of gefitinib stopped making the medication for use in the United States in 2011, and it is no longer available in the United States.
(Click What Is Gefitinib Used For? for more information on this topic, including possible off-label uses.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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