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Is Verzenio (abemaciclib) a chemo drug?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Nov 12, 2021.

Official answer

  • Verzenio is considered a targeted treatment, rather than being a chemo drug, but it may be used to treat certain types of breast cancer.
  • Verzenio belongs to the class of medicines known as CDK 4/6 inhibitors which help to reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Verzenio (abemaciclib) is a targeted treatment that helps to reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. It may be used in combination with other treatments to treat adults with early hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative (HR+ HER2-) breast cancer at high risk of recurrence and a Ki 67 score of at least 20% (by FDA approved test), or those with advanced HR+ HER2- advanced or metastatic breast cancer.

How does Verzenio work?

Verzenio belongs to the class of medicines known as CDK4/6 inhibitors.

CDK4/6 inhibitors, such as Verzenio, target particular enzymes, called CDK4 and CDK6. CDK stands for cyclin-dependent kinase, and it is an enzyme that is important for cell division. CDK4/6 inhibitors interrupt signals that stimulate the growth of cancerous cells.

Certain cancers, for example, HR+ HER2- breast cancer, are more likely to have disturbances in CDK4/6, and CDK 4/6 inhibitors may form part of the treatment protocol. Most often, CDK4/6 inhibitors are given at the same time as hormonal therapy (such as an aromatase inhibitor or fulvestrant), although Verzenio may be used alone to treat HR+ HER2- metastatic breast cancer in pre-treated patients.

Research suggests CDK4/6 inhibitors may increase the time people have before cancer spreads. More evidence is needed to determine their impact on overall survival.

Common side effects include fatigue and gastrointestinal disturbances, such as nausea, severe diarrhea, and vomiting. Bone marrow suppression resulting in neutropenia and leukopenia may also occur, although anemia and thrombocytopenia are less common. In general, the side effects associated with CDK4/6 inhibitor therapy are less severe than those experienced with chemotherapy.

  • Verzenio (abemaciclib) Eli Lilly and Company
  • Verzenio (abemaciclib) Updated 10/2021. Eli Lilly and Company
    Verzenio (abemaciclib) Lilly

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