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Iressa as Good as Chemotherapy for Lung Cancer
Date:11/21/2008

Daily pill easier to take, has fewer side effects than chemotherapy, experts say

FRIDAY, Nov. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The cancer-fighting pill Iressa works as well as chemotherapy as a second-line treatment for lung cancer, researchers report.

Although neither therapy prolongs survival beyond eight months, Iressa (gefitinib) causes fewer serious side effects and may be a better choice for patients who did not do well on their first round of chemotherapy.

"A pill, with less side effects, taken once a day, has similar activity to traditional chemotherapy given by vein every three weeks," said lead researcher Dr. Edward Kim, an assistant professor at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

This finding should reassure doctors that they are not compromising effective therapy by using a pill, Kim said.

Iressa is not available in the United States, but a similar drug, Tarceva, is.

Iressa was first developed by AstraZeneca, but it failed to meet expectations. The National Cancer Institute ended clinical trials of the drug in 2005 because it failed to prolong the lives of lung cancer patients.

The latest finding has meaning for these patients, however, Kim said. "You can be treated for lung cancer. There are different therapies available, and they have different side-effect profiles," he said. "Chemotherapy will never be eliminated, but we are getting more options for targeted therapy; and people can live as normal a life as they can bearing the weight of lung cancer."

The report was published in the Nov. 22 issue of The Lancet.

In a head-to-head comparison, Kim's team randomly assigned 1,466 lung cancer patients who had undergone previous chemotherapy to daily doses of Iressa or the chemotherapy drug docetaxel once every three weeks.

The researchers found that survival in both groups of patients was about the same. Median survival for those taking Ir
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