Drug Fights Advanced Lung Cancer

Tarceva shows promising results in older, untreated patients

MONDAY, Sept. 19, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The drug Tarceva may benefit older patients as a first-line treatment for advanced lung cancer, new research suggests.

In a phase II study involving 80 patients averaging 75 years of age, researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston concluded that treatment with Tarceva (erlotinib) produced encouraging results with few side effects in previously untreated patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

Tarceva is designed to block an overactive growth-signaling molecule called EGFR that's present in cancer cells. None of the patients in the study showed complete responses to the drug, but 60 percent of the patients experienced either a partial response or had stable disease.

Ten patients were discontinued from the study due to toxicity and there was one treatment-related death from pneumonitis.

The researchers say the results were promising enough to warrant a Phase III trial to test Tarceva as a front-line therapy for this form of lung cancer.

"While further research is needed, our findings suggest that it may be beneficial to use erlotinib, a relatively non-toxic targeted agent, to initially treat patients with advanced lung cancer, rather than use conventional chemotherapy regimens," research leader Dr. Bruce Johnson said in a prepared statement.

The study received funding from drug maker Genentech. The findings were to be presented Sunday at the Annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society in Copenhagen.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about non-small cell lung cancer.

SOURCE: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, news release, Sept. 18, 2005
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