Open Access Study protocol

The use of erlotinib in daily practice: a study on adherence and patients' experiences

Lonneke Timmers1*, Christel CLM Boons1, Dirk Mangnus1, Josee E Moes1, Eleonora L Swart1, Epie Boven3, Egbert F Smit2 and Jacqueline G Hugtenburg1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacy, VU University Medical Center, De Boelelaan 1117, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 Department of Pulmonary Diseases, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

3 Department of Medical Oncology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:284  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-284

Published: 1 July 2011



Adherence to pharmacological therapy is a complex and multi-factorial issue that can substantially alter the outcome of treatment. It has been shown that cancer patients, especially when using long-term medication, have similar adherence rates to those of patients with other diseases. The consequences of poor adherence are poor health outcomes and increased health care costs. Only few studies have focused on the use of oral anticancer agents in daily practice. Information about the reasons for non-adherence is essential for the development of interventions that may increase adherence. This paper presents the CAPER-erlotinib protocol, which is designed to study the relationship between adherence to erlotinib and both the plasma concentration and side-effects in patients with NSCLC. Further, the relationships between patient characteristics, disease characteristics, side-effects, quality of life, patient beliefs and attitude towards disease and medication, dose adjustments, reasons for discontinuation and plasma concentration of erlotinib will be explored.


In this prospective observational cohort study 65 NSCLC patients of 18 years or older starting treatment with erlotinib will be followed for a period up to 16 weeks. The main study parameters are adherence, the plasma concentration of erlotinib and the number and grade of side-effects. At baseline and on erlotinib treatment in weeks 3-4, 8-9, 12 and 15-16, patients will be asked to fill out a questionnaire. In weeks 3-4, 8-9 and 15-16 blood samples are collected, which will be analysed for plasma concentration of erlotinib. Adherence will be measured using a medication event monitoring system.


The present study aims to get more insight into patients' experiences with the use of erlotinib in daily practice and the various aspects that govern adherence. We hypothesize that side-effects play an important role in the way patients use erlotinib. We expect that the present study will provide valuable knowledge which will be useful for health care professionals to develop interventions to support patients. This approach will improve the adherence and persistence with the use of erlotinib in order to derive optimal benefit from the medication.

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