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Cancer Medicine Advances on Many Fronts
Date:12/23/2008

as much as 21 percent in patients with non-small cell lung cancer which expressed the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Patients receiving Erbitux in a recent trial lived an average of 11.3 months vs. 10.1 months in those receiving a placebo. Lung cancer is the number-one cancer killer among men and women; only 5 percent of those diagnosed with this type of lung cancer survive five years.
  • The new chemotherapy drug Gemcitabine (Gemzar) doubled disease-free survival from 6.9 months to 13.4 months in pancreatic cancer patients, and increased overall survival from 20.2 months to 22.8 months in patients with early-stage pancreatic cancer who had undergone surgery. Again, only 5 percent of people receiving this diagnosis live five years.
  • In the area of new drug approvals:

    • Bendamustine (Treanda) "eliminated" chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in one-third of patients compared with 2 percent who went with current standard therapy, and extended survival without a recurrence to 21.7 months from 9.3 months. The drug was approved in March of 2008 and is now indicated as first-line treatment for the disease.
    • Bevacizumab (Avastin), another monoclonal antibody, was approved (in conjunction with the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (Taxol) for women with previously untreated HER2-negative, metastatic breast cancer. A trial the year before had found the combination doubled disease-free survival compared with women receiving chemo alone. A second trial, this one from 2008, confirmed the findings.

    In the area of reducing cancer recurrence:

    • Women with breast cancer who have already taken tamoxifen for five years and who take additional hormone therapy in the form of an aromatase inhibitor or more tamoxifen may reduce even further the chances of the cancer coming back.
    • Adding the osteoporosis drug zoledronic acid (Zometa) in premenopausal women with early-stage breast ca
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