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Drug Trials Show Modest Gains Against Lung Cancer
Date:5/30/2009

Alimta, Zactima extend survival but cure remains out of reach, studies show

SATURDAY, May 30 (HealthDay News) -- Certain drugs offer incremental yet significant improvements in pushing back advanced lung cancer.

That's the conclusion of studies presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Orlando, Fla.

Lung cancer remains America's leading cancer killer, and "significant" improvements in time-to-disease recurrence and survival are measured in weeks and months, not years, experts stress.

The benefits from any drug also vary from patient to patient. "Some patients are benefiting much more and some much less," noted Dr. Roy Herbst, chief of thoracic medical oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and lead author of one of the studies presented at the meeting.

In data presented at an ASCO news conference Saturday, researchers found that the drug Alimta (pemetrexed) prolonged survival by almost three months in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, the deadliest form of the disease. This benefit was almost exclusively confined to people with the nonsquamous forms of the disease, the researchers said.

"This is the first randomized, placebo-controlled trial that showed a benefit to pemetrexed in the 'maintenance' setting, after initial therapy. It was also very well tolerated," said study lead author Dr. Chandra P. Belani, deputy director of the Penn State Cancer Institute in Hershey, Penn.

Maintenance therapy, given after standard chemotherapy, refers to continuing some portion of a patient's treatment to help stave off a recurrence.

While previous research had shown that pemetrexed as maintenance therapy extended disease-free survival, this was the first study to show a benefit to overall survival, the researchers said.

For this study, 663 patients with advanced non-s
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