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Lung Cancer Health Center

Gene Test May ID Lung Cancer Spread

Researchers Say Test May Let Some Patients Avoid Unnecessary Chemotherapy
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Similar Test Available for Breast Cancer

Richard L. Schilsky, MD, president-elect of ASCO and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, says this is "a very important and provocative paper."

Schilsky tells WebMD: "We know that chemo after surgery improves survival for patients with many common solid tumors, including breast, colorectal, and non-small cell lung cancer. But we also know that not every patient needs it; across the board, about 50% to 65% of people with solid tumors are cured by surgery alone. So what we would really like is some type of test that tells us who is at very high risk of recurrence and therefore who needs treatment, and that is exactly what this research is aiming to do."

Schilsky notes that a similar test, known as Oncotype DX, is already commercially available for women with some types of breast cancer. Researchers recently reported that the test has significantly cut down on the number of women who are unnecessarily undergoing chemotherapy after surgery to remove their breast tumors.

Alimta for Advanced Lung Cancer

Also at the meeting, researchers are scheduled to report that people with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer may benefit from taking the anticancer medication Alimta after finishing their regular course of chemotherapy.

In a study of 581 patients, cancer progressed in patients given placebo after just two months vs. four months for those on Alimta.

Also, there's also some suggestion that the additional treatment may extend lives, says Tudor Eliade Ciuleanu, MD, PhD, associate professor at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Iuliu Hatieganu in Romania. His team is continuing to follow the patients to determine if it does improve survival rates.

"This is the first study to show that lung cancer patients can benefit from maintenance therapy. The fact that this approach significantly increases the amount of time that patients have before their cancer progresses, without increasing additional side effects, is particularly significant," he says.

Before being randomly assigned to Alimta or placebo, all the patients had completed a standard chemotherapy regimen.

Alimta is approved to treat non-small-cell lung cancers that progress despite standard chemotherapy.

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