Drug Combo Proves Powerful Against Lung Cancer

SATURDAY May 30, 2009 -- A two-drug combination treatment proved successful in safely slowing advanced non-small cell lung cancer in a recent clinical trial.

In the study, a phase 3 trial involving 768 people with the disease, those who had erlotinib (Tarceva) added to their dose of the bevacizumab (Avastin) saw the progression of the disease slow more than if on bevacizumab alone. People on the combo therapy tolerated the drugs well and survived an average of 4.8 months before the disease grew worse, compared with 3.7 months for those on bevacizumab alone.

Non-small cell lung cancer, often linked to past tobacco use, is the most common of all lung cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"This is the first study to show the addition of erlotinib to maintenance therapy prolongs progression-free survival in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer," the study's co-author, Dr. Vincent Miller, a thoracic oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said in a news release from the center. "Knowing which patients will get the greatest benefit from this combination, based on the identification of biomarkers, will be an important next step in this research."

Maintenance therapy aims to slow a disease from getting worse and better the chance of surviving while recovering from stronger chemotherapy treatments, which can weaken and sicken the person.

Miller was to present the findings Saturday at the annual meeting American Society of Clinical Oncology, in Orlando, Fla.

Bevacizumab and erlotinib have previously shown promise in treating non-small cell lung cancer by blocking tumor growth.

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Posted: May 2009


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