The drug Afatinib is a relatively new drug used in the treatment of lung cancer. The anti-cancer effect is achieved by blocking the growth factors in the cells.

What is Afatinib?

Lung cancerous lesions (alveoli) in the neckline are marked. Click to enlarge.

The active ingredient afatinib is used to treat adult patients suffering from advanced non-small cell lung cancer. It is a relatively new substance that has only been approved in the European Union and the USA in the form of tablets in 2013.

These are taken once a day on an empty stomach and on the one hand to prevent that altered growth factors can bind to altered receptors and on the other hand prevent unhindered cell growth can be activated. Afatinib is included in the group of kinase inhibitors.

Their healing effect is based on the fact that the active ingredients are bound to enzymes that play an important role in the development and spread of a variety of cancers. Because CKDs are targeted against various types of cancer, such as lung cancer, breast or colon cancer, they are considered to be better tolerated than traditional cancer drugs.

Pharmacological action

Like all other cells of the body, cancer cells are also stimulated by various growth factors to multiply. To stimulate cell growth, the growth factor binds to the receptor of the cell.

As a result of the action of the enzyme tyrosine kinase, the receptor changes, whereupon the processes are activated, which are responsible for growth and reproduction. The uncontrolled growth and proliferation of tumor cells is due to the fact that they either have too many or too much altered receptors for cell growth. The active ingredient afatinib starts with this mechanism: it deposits directly at the growth factor formation sites, blocking them permanently and specifically.

The preparation makes no difference between natural or altered receptors. This prevents that a cancer-promoting signal can be delivered to the cells of the organism. At the molecular level, afatinib affects protein and lipid kinases in function. Cancer cells can not only be hindered in the growth of the preparation, but also destroyed. Thus the preparation also resembles the mode of action of other kinase inhibitors. The effect of the drug lasts 37 hours comparatively long.

Medical application & use

Afatinib is prescribed only in adult patients with locally advanced bronchogenic carcinoma. The drug is also effective if the cancer with metastases has already spread to other organs.

However, the precondition for treatment with afatinib is that the patient has activating EGFR mutations. An appropriate test is required before the drug is administered for the first time. About 80 percent of all lung cancer patients can be treated with afatinib, as this percentage suffers from non-small cell lung cancer. Just like small cell bronchial carcinomas, which are considered to be particularly aggressive, this type of lung cancer also runs symptom-free over long periods.

Typical symptoms such as chronic cough, difficulty breathing, coughing blood, weight loss and a lack of appetite are usually only recognized as symptoms of lung cancer, when it has already reached an advanced stage, in which a cure is no longer possible. Among the most important risk factors that can cause lung cancer are active and passive smoking.

However, other substances such as radon, asbestos, radioactive dust and the like also count as carcinogenic. In addition, the onset of lung cancer can be promoted by a high level of air pollution, existing pre-existing conditions in the lungs and genetic preloads.

Risks & Side Effects

Because treatment with afatinib may cause side effects, some of which are serious, careful monitoring is required in the first six weeks after initiation of treatment. This is especially true when diarrhea occurs. These can be very severe and in extreme cases even lead to dehydration, if the patient does not take much liquid to compensate.

The most common side effects include severe skin reactions that may be exacerbated by the effects of ultraviolet radiation. Patients should protect themselves from the sun and not use a tanning bed. The side effects of afatinib can be expressed in a variety of complaints, so that further treatment must be under special medical supervision. Tags: 

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