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Crizotinib (Drug) shows great promise against non-smokers' lung cancer

HeartofSoul's picture
Posts: 730
Joined: Dec 2009

First let me say this drug is in clinical trial phase now. Article also does not state which specific type(s) of lung cancer this drug is now being used for in trials, such as
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and its subtypes
•Squamous cell carcinoma (also called epidermoid carcinoma)
•Bronchioalveolar carcinoma
•Large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma

or Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

Crizotinib hasn't yet been approved and is available only through clinical trials. Patients can find out if they're eligible for these studies by asking their doctors to test their tumor samples or by calling Pfizer at 1-877-369-9753.

An experimental drug is causing dramatic recoveries in a small number of people with lung cancer, the world's leading cancer killer, scientists reported Saturday.
The pill, crizotinib, shrank tumors in 64% of patients with advanced lung cancer and kept 90% of cancers in check, according to a preliminary study of 76 patients presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Doctors haven't studied the drug long enough to know if it also helps patients live longer.

But the new pill appears far more effective than conventional chemotherapy, which typically helps only 10% of patients with such advanced cancer, says study author Yung-Jue Bang of Seoul National University in South Korea.

Patients in the study had already endured up to seven previous therapies, and might have had only three to four months to live, says Mace Rothenberg of Pfizer, which funded the study.

It's rare for cancer drugs to show this much promise in the earliest phase of human testing. These results were so strong, however, that doctors were able to move quickly to a large, definitive trial, Bang says.

"It's an absolutely huge deal," says Mark Kris, a lung cancer researcher at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who has treated patients with the drug. "This is where we want cancer therapy to go."

Crizotinib is part of new arsenal of "targeted" cancer therapies, developed over the past decade, which keep tumors in check by blocking the production of proteins that make cancers grow. They work very differently than conventional chemo, which act broadly to kill all fast-growing cells — killing both malignant cells and healthy ones.

Crizotinib blocks a genetic abnormality found most often in nonsmokers, caused when two normal genes fuse together to form a new, cancer-causing gene, called EML4-ALK. About 7,500 of the 219,440 Americans diagnosed with lung cancer each year have this mutation.

Because the mutation isn't found in healthy cells, crizotinib causes fewer side serious side effects than chemo, which can lower patients' blood counts and lead to life-threatening infections. Doctors saw no severe or life-threatening symptoms in this study, although one patient stopped taking the drug because of side effects, Bang says.

"We're seeing an evolution in treatment," says researcher Brian Druker, who invented the landmark drug Gleevec, which was approved in 2001 and is seen as the model for new cancer treatments. "The more of these drugs we get, the closer we get to the reality of personalized cancer therapies."

Andy Hill of Redmond, Wash., said he owes his health to the drug, which he has been taking since October. "I was in bad shape," says Hill, a 47 year-old non-smoker, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2009. "It was very hard to walk up the stairs without losing my breath. I lost my voice. ... I started taking the pill and within a week, all my symptoms had gone away. Within two weeks, my voice was back. Within three weeks, I was jogging again."

For Hill, Crizotinib's only side effects are temporary visual disturbances: strobe-light effects in his peripheral vision when he goes from a dark room to a lighted one. Chemo and radiation were much harsher, he says, burning his esophagus so that he was unable to eat and had to be fed intravenously. Hill lost his hair and 25 pounds.

Hill says he has since regained that weight, and has returned to coaching his 14-year-old daughter's soccer team. "I've kind of gotten a second chance," Hill says.

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