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Is lenvatinib an immunotherapy or chemotherapy drug?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Oct 25, 2022.

Official answer


Lenvatinib (brand name: Lenvima) is considered a targeted treatment, not a chemotherapy drug. A targeted cancer treatment works by affecting specific target molecules that lead to the growth and spread of cancer. Lenvatinib blocks cell proteins and signals directed at blood vessels that help the cancer to survive. These types of drugs are often referred to as “precision medicine”.

What is a targeted cancer treatment?

Targeted therapies are specifically designed to interact with their target, not generally with all cells (although they may affect other cells and cause side effects).

  • Targeted drugs block tumor cell growth (cytostatic), whereas standard chemotherapy agents typically kill tumor cells directly (are cytotoxic).
  • Targeted drug therapies can be used alone or with other cancer treatments. For example, lenvatinib is used in combination with pembrolizumab (Keytruda), an immunotherapy, for the treatment of endometrial cancer.

Chemotherapy (“chemo”) acts directly to kill rapidly dividing cancerous, but can also affect rapidly dividing normal cells (like hair follicles) and lead to other side effects.

  • Chemotherapy can be used with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation or immunotherapy, for an overall treatment regimen.
  • Chemotherapy can lead to serious side effects because it also can affect cells that are not cancerous.
  • Examples of traditional chemotherapy drugs include doxorubicin (Adriamycin) or paclitaxel.

Immunotherapy drugs do not attack cancer cells directly. Immunotherapy helps to boost your natural immune system to fight off diseases such as cancer.

  • These drugs stimulate the patient’s own immune system to recognize cancer cells as foreign bodies and attack these cancer cells.
  • However, immunotherapy can also target normal cells in your body which may lead to side effects.
  • Immunotherapy can be given alone or in combination with other types of cancer treatments.
  • Examples of common immunotherapy drugs include pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo).

What is the mechanism of action of lenvatinib?

  • Lenvatinib is classified as an oral multiple receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) inhibitor that blocks certain proteins that boost cancer cell growth.
  • It is also called a Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)/ vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) inhibitor. It blocks signals to help slow down the growth of new blood vessels from existing blood vessels (angiogenesis) that support the tumor's growth.
  • Abnormal angiogenesis can occur in cancer, degenerative eye diseases and other medical conditions that involve inflammation.

The FDA first approved Eisai’s Lenvima in February 2015. It is approved for the treatment of differentiated thyroid cancer, advanced renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer), inoperable hepatocellular (liver) carcinoma (HCC), and endometrial cancer.

Bottom Line

  • Lenvatinib (brand name: Lenvima) is considered an oral targeted treatment, not a chemotherapy drug.
  • It blocks proteins on cells and signals directed at blood vessels to help slow down the growth and spread of certain types of cancer.
  • It is approved for the treatment of certain forms of thyroid cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer and endometrial cancer.

This is not all the information you need to know about lenvatinib for safe and effective use. Review the full lenvatinib information here, and discuss this information and any questions with your doctor or other health care provider.

  • Lenvima (lenvatinib) [product information]. Eisai Inc. Woodcliff Lake, NJ. Revised February 2020. Accessed November 4, 2020 at
  • Targeted Cancer Therapies. National Cancer Institute (NCI). Accessed Nov. 4, 2020 at
  • You’re on Targeted Therapy? Is That the Same as Immunotherapy? Accessed Nov. 4, 2020 at

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