"There was [also] an improvement in overall survival, a positive trend, but it was not statistically significant: 10.6 months in the Zactima arm versus 10 months in the placebo group," said Herbst, who led the trial.
Patients also felt better on Zactima, the researchers said. The bottom line, according to Herbst, is that "patients [on Zactima] are clearly progressing less quickly. But, unfortunately, all are going to succumb to the disease." Still, "they are reporting they were feeling better," he added. "That's a small step. Do we want more? Absolutely."
Yet a third trial found that combining the targeted therapies Tarceva (erlotinib) with Avastin (bevacizumab) as maintenance therapy in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer helped patients live longer before their disease returned -- a median of 4.8 months for the combined group versus 3.7 months in the control group.
Saturday's findings should encourage the use of maintenance treatments, Reckamp said. She noted that the pemetrexed (Alimta) trial is "the first study that shows overall survival is improved with maintenance, so it challenges the initial paradigm. This data, [along] with the data on Avastin and erlotinib, helps to bring the information home that maintenance therapy in lung cancer is something we need to think about and it will be easy [non-toxic] for people to use."
There's more on lung cancer at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: May 30, 2009 news conference with Chandra P. Belani, M.D., deputy director, Penn State Cancer Institute, Hershey, Penn.,
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