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Erbitux Plus Chemo Improves Lung Cancer Outcomes
Date:5/31/2008

Survival extended 5 weeks; benefit seen in all subtypes of disease, researchers say

SATURDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- The long-awaited results of a trial of the biologic drug Erbitux on patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer show it prolonged survival by about five weeks when combined with chemotherapy.

Medical professionals have known the drug improved survival, but the question has been by how much.

"This will give us more options to treat patients with non-small cell lung cancer, for whom the prognosis is very poor. Five-year survival is less than 5 percent," said Dr. Shakun Malik, director of the lung cancer program at Georgetown's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C.

"We haven't had much happening in the treatment of lung cancer for a long time," she added. "We now have some tremendous progress being made, and most of this is from the addition of biological therapies."

"For lung cancer, a small step forward is a big step, but it's always a question - this is four or five weeks, what does that really mean?" said Dr. Karen Reckamp, an assistant professor of medicine at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif.

There have been other trials involving Erbitux with similar chemotherapy regimens which did not show any benefits. This is the second study that has shown an improvement, Reckamp said.

"We have other negative studies. How is this going to fit into our packet? It does show a survival benefit. The toxicities are probably relatively reasonable," Reckamp said. "I think it's a drug that, with some discussion and some careful understanding of how this trial is different, will be something we do utilize in the right patients."

Avastin (bevacizumab), which blocks blood supply to the tumor, is currently the only targeted therapy approved for this type of lung cancer. Erbitux would be the second such drug approved for this us
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