Skip to main content

Is Zykadia a chemotherapy drug and how does it work?

Medically reviewed by Nicole France, BPharm. Last updated on Oct 4, 2021.

Official answer


Zykadia (ceritinib) is a chemotherapy drug used to treat a certain type of lung cancer called ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase)-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Zykadia is a small molecule drug and a type of targeted therapy. Unlike traditional chemotherapy drugs that attack all dividing cells, damaging healthy cells as well as cancerous ones, Zykadia is a targeted chemotherapy drug that targets ALK.

Mutations in the ALK gene, which provides the instructions for making a protein called ALK receptor tyrosine kinase, are found in about five percent of people with lung cancer.

How does Zykadia work in patients with non-small cell lung cancer?

Zykadia works by blocking certain receptors on cancer cells, which prevents them from growing. Zykadia is a kinase inhibitor that works primarily by blocking the ALK receptor tyrosine kinase, which is why it is used to treat ALK-positive NSCLC.

In some people who develop NSCLC, the ALK gene is turned on and fuses or joins with other genes to form an ALK rearrangement or fusion, which causes them to develop cancer.

Receptor tyrosine kinases are proteins that play a variety of key roles involved in the growth, motility, differentiation and metabolism of cells. Mutations or other problems with these tyrosine kinases can lead to the development of different types of cancer.


Related medical questions

Drug information

Related support groups