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New Treatment May Boost Survival in Advanced Lung Cancer Cases
Date:11/9/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- For the first time, "epigenetic" therapy has shown promise in patients with solid tumors, in this case non-small cell lung cancers.

Of 45 patients in a trial of this experimental treatment, two had a complete response to therapy, one had a partial response and one is still alive more than four years after starting therapy.

"It's not a home run, but this trial has opened the door for further research into epigenetic therapy," said Dr. Stephen Baylin, co-author of the study appearing online Nov. 9 and in the December issue of Cancer Discovery.

Other experts were both hopeful and cautious.

"The exciting part of this study is that they're using therapies that have really never worked in solid tumors, and this is one of the first studies to show that these types of therapies may work in solid tumors, and more specifically in lung cancer," said Dr. Benjamin Levy, director of thoracic medical oncology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "But until we get this validated in larger studies, it's unclear where this type of therapy in terms of altering epigenetic regulation is going to have a place in lung cancer."

"You have to view this as extremely preliminary. It is a small study with what one could almost argue are anecdotal-type findings," said Dr. Edward Kim, chief of head and neck medical oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "There's not a lot I could apply to my patients, though the results are intriguing."

Some 80 percent of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancers, which have few effective treatments and, consequently, a dire prognosis.

Epigenetic therapy involves targeting the proteins wrapped around DNA, which regulate changes in actual gene expression. Unlike genetic mutations, epigenetic abnormalities can be reversed, explained Levy.

This phase 1/2 trial involved 45 pa
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