The targeted cancer drug erlotinib has comparable efficacy to chemotherapy, and is better tolerated, in hard-to-treat cases where a patient's cancer has progressed quickly after treatment with first-line therapy, the results of a new phase III trial show.
Dr Tudor Ciuleanu from the Institute of Oncology Ion Chiricuta, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, reported this finding from the international TITAN study at the European Multidisciplinary Conference in Thoracic Oncology (EMCTO), 24-26 February 2011, Lugano, Switzerland.
"The TITAN study is the first trial to evaluate whether erlotinib has comparable efficacy to chemotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer patients in general," Dr Ciuleanu said.
The study included only patients whose disease had progressed under first-line chemotherapy. In the clinic, around 30-40% of patients with lung cancer will see no benefit from first-line therapy and their disease will rapidly progress.
"These patients have an extremely poor prognosis and few treatment options. An effective alternative to chemotherapy is therefore very important, since chemo-related side-effects can result in further physical deterioration in patients who are already very sick," Dr Ciuleanu said.
Historically, data have shown that erlotinib was more tolerable than chemotherapy, but many physicians had assumed that erlotinib would not be as effective in this difficult-to-treat patient population compared to chemotherapy.
The open-label study included 424 patients whose lung cancer had progressed rapidly after treatment with first-line chemotherapy. Of these, 203 were treated with erlotinib, and 221 received chemotherapy with either docetaxel or pemetrexed.
No difference in overall survival was seen between the two groups, the researchers reported. Nor was there any significant difference in progression-free survival time.
"TITAN is important because it confirms that erlotinib has comparable efficacy
|Contact: Vanessa Pavinato|
European Society for Medical Oncology