SUNDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- While most patients with advanced lung cancer only take four courses of two chemotherapy drugs and then stop until recurrence occurs, continuing treatment with one of those drugs may delay return of the deadly disease, new research suggests.
The results are preliminary, but Spanish scientists report that staying on Alimta (pemextrexed) delayed recurrence of the disease.
"This is the first trial with what looks like a positive outcome where you continue the same treatment," said Dr. Neal Ready, a professor of medicine at the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C. "All the other positive trials in the past switched chemotherapy regimens, so this is a true 'maintenance' approach" in that doctors maintained the patients on the same drug.
Although overall survival data is not yet in, "if it all bears out and that looks good, this would influence medical oncologists to continue treatment after the standard combination of two chemotherapies at the same time," Ready said.
The findings, which were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, was funded by Lilly, which makes Alimta.
In this study, almost 1,000 patients with advanced nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer were given a typical four courses of Alimta and cisplatin. The 539 patients who saw their disease stabilize were then randomly chosen to receive Alimta or a placebo.
Participants taking Alimta lived an average of 4.1 months without a disease recurrence compared to 2.8 months in the placebo group.
"There was a decrease of 38 percent in the risk of progression, which we believe is clinically significant and may support the use of this in a clinical context," said study author Dr. Luis Paz-Ares, chair of oncology at Seville University Hospital in Seville, Spain, who spoke at a Sunday news conference.
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