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Researchers Report Treatment Headway Against Lung Cancer
Date:6/5/2010

Studies show combo chemotherapy, new drug prolonged lives of some with advanced disease

SATURDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers report they prolonged survival for some patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, for whom the median survival is currently only about six months.

One study discovered that an experimental drug called crizotinib shrank tumors in the majority of lung cancer patients with a specific gene variant. An estimated 5 percent of lung cancer patients, or roughly 40,000 people worldwide, have this gene variant.

A second study found that a double-chemotherapy regimen benefited elderly patients, who represent the majority of those with lung cancer worldwide. Roughly 100,000 patients with lung cancer in the United States are over the age of 70.

"This is our toughest cancer in many ways," said Dr. Mark Kris, moderator of a Saturday press conference at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), in Chicago. "It affects 220,000 Americans each year, and over a million people worldwide. Sadly, it is our nation's -- and our world's -- leading cancer."

The first study, a phase 1 trial, found that 87 percent of 82 patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer with a specific mutation of the ALK gene, which makes that gene fuse with another, responded robustly to treatment with crizotinib, which is made by Pfizer Inc.

"The patients were treated for an average of six months, and more than 90 percent saw their tumors shrink in size and 72 percent of participants remained progression-free six months after treatment," said study author Dr. Yung-Jue Bang, a professor in the department of internal medicine at Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea. Ordinarily, only about 10 percent of patients would be expected to respond to treatment.

About half of patients experienced nausea, vomiting and diarrhea but these side ef
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