The fusion gene was first discovered to play a role in this type of lung cancer in 2007. Researchers are now working on a phase 3 trial of the drug. The Korean researchers reported financial ties to Pfizer.
The second study, a phase 3 trial, involved 451 patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer aged 70 to 89. The study had first expected to enroll 520 patients, but it was halted early when good survival results were seen in the group taking the combination therapy.
Currently, elderly patients are typically given just one chemotherapy drug, with younger patients more likely to get two or more.
In this trial, participants were randomly selected to receive either one chemotherapy agent -- gemcitabine (Gemzar) or vinorelbine (Navelbine) -- or to receive both carboplatin and paclitaxel (Taxol).
For the single-agent group, median survival at one year was 6.2 months and 27 percent patients were still alive, "which is consistent with previous research," said study author Dr. Elisabeth Quoix, a professor of medicine at University Hospital in Strasbourg, France.
"In the double-therapy group, the median survival increased by four months [to 10.3 months], which is quite unusual in thoracic oncology," Quoix said. "Forty-five percent of patients survived one year, which is also quite unusual."
"The four-month improvement is a huge one," added Kris, who is chief of thoracic oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. "Other large clinical trials ... have generally felt to be practice-changing with a two-month change in median survival. This trial supports the idea that patients over 70 should be treated just as anyone else."
Quoix and other study authors reported ties with different pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly Co. and Roche Inc.
Finally, a phase 3 study out of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer C
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