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The Lancet Oncology

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Studies Help Advance Understanding and Treatment of Lung Cancer

Findings from several large studies on lung cancer were released at the 45th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), being held in Orlando, Florida, from May 27 – June 2, 2009.

Today, 1.3 million new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed every year around the worls. The vast majority of lung cancers are caused by cigarette smoking. In the United States 350,000 people are living with lung cancer at any given time. Until the late 1990s, lung cancer was the most frequently occurring cancer in the UK. It has now been overtaken by breast cancer, but still accounts for around 1 in 7 new cancer cases.

In recent years, better diagnostics, reduction in smoking and better treatment options have resulted in a lower number of new cases and reported deaths. But regardless these improvements, lung cancer remains the second most common of diagnosed cancers and the number one of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.

“Lung cancer is one of the most challenging cancers to treat, but the studies presented during the annual ASCO-meeting highlight promising new targeted therapies and milder treatment regimens that improve survival,” said Bruce E. Johnson, MD, Director of the Dana-Farber Harvard Medical Center Lung Cancer Program.

Researchers also report that hormone therapy among menopausal women with lung cancer is associated with a higher risk of death. These findings add to growing concerns about the safety of hormone therapy. The studies being highlighted in OncoZine – The International Cancer Blog include:
  • Pemetrexed extends survival as maintenance therapy: A phase III study reports that maintenance therapy with pemetrexed (Alimta, Eli Lilly and Company) improves overall survival in nonsquamous forms of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
  • Maintenance therapy with two targeted therapies is superior to one alone: A phase III trial finds that adding erlotinib (Tarceva, Genentech/Roche) to bevacizumab-based (Avastin, Genentech/Roche) maintenance therapy in patients with advanced NSCLC delays cancer progression more than maintenance treatment with bevacizumab alone.
  • Menopausal hormone therapy with estrogen and progestin linked to increased risk of death in women with lung cancer: A secondary analysis from the Women’s Health Initiative reports that use of hormone therapy with estrogen plus progestin increases the risk of dying from NSCLC for women with the disease.
  • Novel therapy that targets two receptors benefits patients with advanced lung cancer: A phase III trial demonstrates that vandetanib (Zactima, AstraZeneca), a novel drug that targets two key receptors associated with lung cancCursiefer growth, improves progression-free survival in patients with advanced NSCLC.

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Illustration courtesy of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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