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Erlotinib Significantly Improves Survival in Advanced NSCLC

Effective in lung cancer patients who do not have disease progression after first-line chemotherapy

FRIDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- Maintenance therapy with erlotinib for patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer given immediately after initial chemotherapy is well-tolerated and significantly prolongs progression-free survival, according to research published online May 20 in The Lancet Oncology.

Federico Cappuzzo, M.D., of the Ospedale Civile di Livorno, Italy, and colleagues studied 884 patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who had completed initial chemotherapy and did not have progressive disease during that time. The patients were randomized to either erlotinib maintenance chemotherapy or placebo until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or death.

After a median follow-up of 11.4 months for the erlotinib group and 11.5 months for the placebo group, the researchers found that the median progression-free survival (PFS) was 12.3 weeks for patients in the erlotinib group as compared to 11.1 weeks for those in the placebo group. Overall survival was also significantly higher in the erlotinib group than the placebo group (12 versus 11 months, respectively). In the subgroup of patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-positive immunohistochemistry, those treated with erlotinib had significantly greater PFS compared with those given placebo (12.3 versus 11.1 weeks). Erlotinib was generally well tolerated, although there were more serious adverse events in the erlotinib group than the placebo group (11 percent versus 8 percent).

"These findings suggest that by offering treatment immediately after first-line chemotherapy, we can ensure that more patients have the opportunity to benefit from active therapy, delaying disease progression and prolonging survival times," the authors write.

The study was funded by F Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. Several of the authors report financial relationships with this and/or other pharmaceutical companies.

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