About Tarceva

Advances in cancer treatment have seen the development of medicines known as targeted or biological therapies which can help to slow the growth of cancer cells.

Tarceva is a targeted therapy which has been used in the treatment of people with metastatic or advanced non-small cell lung cancer that displays a specific protein, EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor).

Tarceva is registered for use in New Zealand and funded by the government agency, Pharmac, for certain people with lung cancer.

You can find out more about Tarceva on the following pages. Tarceva is not suitable for everyone, so it’s important that you speak with your doctor about whether this medicine may be right for you.

On these pages you can learn more about:

How Does Tarceva Work?

Tarceva (also known as erlotinib) is used to treat people with advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.

Tarceva only works in lung cancers that feature a certain protein that is present on the cancer cells, known as the EGFR protein. Tarceva works by attaching to the EGFR protein to turn off the signals that encourage the cancer cells to grow.

In people who have the specific protein called EGFR on their cancer cells, Tarceva is used:

  • Either before1 or after2 initial chemotherapy for people with a specific change in the EGFR protein; or
  • As a second treatment if initial treatment with chemotherapy has not worked.3

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How Can Tarceva Help Me?

Studies have looked at how well Tarceva works in people with advanced or metastatic lung cancer. This research is ongoing and there’s still a lot more to discover.

Studies on Tarceva have shown:

  • As a first-line treatment for advanced or metastatic (spreading) non-small cell lung cancer
    Patients had mutations (changes) in the EGFR receptor. In a clinical study comparing Tarceva with chemotherapy, Tarceva almost doubled the length of time patients lived without their disease getting worse (9.7 months compared to 5.4 months). ¹
  • After previous treatment with chemotherapy (known as second or third line treatment)3
    In a clinical study, 31% of people taking Tarceva were still alive one year after they started taking Tarceva, compared with 22% of those who received no treatment (placebo). In the same study, people taking Tarceva lived about two months longer than those who received no treatment (6.7 months compared to 4.7 months), increasing survival time by 43%.

In addition, Tarceva improved a patient’s normal daily activities by reducing common lung cancer symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and pain, compared to no treatment.3

The results will not be the same for everyone. You will need to speak to your doctor about whether Tarceva is right for you.

How is Tarceva Given?

Tarceva is an oral treatment that can be taken at home. The normal dose is one tablet that you take once a day.

Side-Effects of Tarceva

Tarceva is an effective treatment for patients with with EGFR-positive advanced or metastatic Lung Cancer but it may have some unwanted side-effects in some people.

All medicines can have side-effects. Sometimes they are serious, most of the time they are not. You may need medical treatment if you get some of the side-effects. Remember that most people will not experience all of the side-effects listed below.

Ask your medical team to answer any questions you may have.

Your medical team is in the best position to help you manage any side-effects, so be open with them about any symptoms you notice, whether or not you think they are caused by the medicine.

If you want to find out more about Tarceva-related side-effects, please look at Before you are given Tarceva, While you are receiving Tarceva, and Side Effects sections in the Tarceva Consumer Medicines Information.

How do I get Tarceva?

Tarceva funding is restricted to people with locally advanced or metastatic non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer who have a specific mutation in the EGFR protein found on cancer cells. Tarceva is not funded for maintenance treatment or in patients without EGFR mutations. Patients will need to pay for Tarceva and you will need to talk to your doctor for more information on the costs associated with treatment.

Patients will only be eligible for funded Tarceva if they test positive for changes in their EGFR protein. Your doctor will be able to give you more information on EGFR testing.

Talking to Your Doctor About Whether Tarceva is Right for You

Tarceva is not a cure, but it may give you more time before your cancer grows and spreads. For many people, Tarceva may be able to offer a few extra months and for others it may be able to offer more.

Speak with your doctor about your specific case and the pros and cons of taking Tarceva.

If you’re not sure how to have this discussion with your doctor, we’ve developed a list of common questions which might help you. Have a look at these here.

More Information

If you’d like more information on Tarceva, have a look at the following:

Helpful questions
to ask your doctor
Tarceva Consumer Information
Medsafe NZ Consumer
Information for Tarceva

Tarceva® (erlotinib), 150mg, 100mg and 25mg tablets, is a Prescription Medicine used for the treatment of advanced or metastatic (spreading) non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Tarceva can be given before or after initial chemotherapy if your cancer has specific mutations in a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). It can also be given later on when chemotherapy has not worked. Tarceva has risks and benefits. Ask your doctor if Tarceva is right for you. Use strictly as directed. If symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your healthcare professional. For further information on Tarceva, please talk to your health professional or visit www.medsafe.govt.nz for Tarceva Consumer Medicine Information. Tarceva (150mg and 100mg tablets) is a funded medicine for patients with NSCLC who meet pre- defined criteria. A prescription charge and normal doctor’s fees apply.


  1. Rosell R, et al. Lancet Oncol 2012;13:239-246
  2. Coudert B, et al. Ann Oncol 2012;23:388-394
  3. Shepherd FA, et al. N Engl J Med 2005;353:123-132