Thursday, September 10, 2015

New targeted therapy improves lung cancer survival

Image courtesy NCI
CANCER DIGEST – Sept. 10, 2015 – The world’s largest clinical trial comparing two targeted therapies for a form of advanced non-small cell lung cancer has found that a newer medication called afatinib decreased the risk of cancer progression and the risk of death by 19 percent compared to an older therapy called erlotinib. 

The type of non-small cell cancer studied is called squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, and begins in the tissue that lines the air passages in the lungs, most often located in the larger airways that join the lungs to the trachea or windpipe.

The large clinical trial, called LUX-Lung 8 involved 795 patients in 23 countries whose cancer had stopped responding to standard chemotherapy. Afatinib and erlotinib are both called targeted therapies because they are engineered antibodies that block the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which plays a key role in the growth  of cancer cells. 

Patients  were randomly assigned to treatment with either afatinib (398), or erlotinib (397) and followed until the cancer resumed progressing. Those in the afatinib group survived progression-free for a median 2-4 months compared to the erlotinib group, which remained progression free for a median of 1.9 months. While comparing overall survival was not a primary objective of the trial, the results showed median survival of 7.9 months compared to a median of 6.8 for the erlotinib group.

The results were published in Lancet Oncology.

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