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Is Imbruvica a chemotherapy drug?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Sep 19, 2023.

Official answer

  • Imbruvica is not a chemotherapy drug. It is a targeted treatment.
  • Imbruvica works by inhibiting the enzyme Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK), which is part of a crucial signaling pathway in certain cancers, especially B-cell leukemias and lymphomas.
  • BTK plays an important role in the survival of cancer cells, telling them to grow and divide uncontrollably.
  • By blocking this pathway Imbruvica triggers the death of cancer cells.

Imbruvica (ibrutinib) is a targeted medicine that works by inhibiting the enzyme Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK), which is a key signalling molecule that plays a crucial role in the survival of certain cancers, especially B-cell leukemias and lymphomas.

By blocking BTK, Imbruvica blocks the signals that stimulate malignant cells to grow and divide out of control, triggering the death of cancerous cells.

Imbruvica may be used in the treatment of

  • Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Small lymphocytic lymphoma.

Imbruvica may also be used to treat chronic graft-versus-host disease.

Related Questions

What is the difference between chemotherapy and targeted treatment?

Chemotherapy focuses primarily on the fact that cancer cells divide rapidly, so it kills rapidly dividing cells. Unfortunately, some of our normal cells divide rapidly too, which is why chemotherapy has multiple side effects, such as mouth problems, low blood counts, and hair loss.

Targeted treatment identifies other features of cancer cells that are different from normal cells, or are more overactive than normal cells. There are many different types of targeted treatment and each one works a bit differently, but they all interfere with the ability of the cancer cell to grow, divide, repair or communicate with other cells. Research continues to identify additional cancer features to target and work out which cancers are best treated with targeted therapies.


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