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Lung Cancer Health Center

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Erbitux Fights Advanced Lung Cancer

Study Shows Drug May Add New Option for Treatment of Lung Cancer Patients

Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer continued...

Avastin works differently, preventing tumors from growing new blood vessels, thereby choking them to death. It is approved to treat metastatic breast cancer as well as late-stage colorectal cancer and late-stage lung cancer.

"Erbitux opens up a new choice for a sizable group of patients" for whom there are currently no real options, Pirker says.

The most common side effect associated with Erbitux was an acne-like rash. Moderate rash was observed in 10% of patients taking Erbitux vs. less than 1% of those on chemotherapy alone.

New Option for Lung Cancer Patients

Almost every doctor questioned by WebMD agreed the findings will change the way doctors treat patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancers.

"An extra five weeks [of survival] might not seem like much, and it's not," says David M. Johnson, MD, deputy director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville and a cancer survivor himself.

"But if you focus on the five weeks, you're losing the bigger message," he tells WebMD. "This is a positive study for a very tough group of patients to treat. Just like the Wright brothers didn't launch the 747 at Kitty Hawk, cancer cures aren't discovered overnight."

Before chemotherapy was introduced, only 10% of lung cancer patients could be expected to be alive a year later. Over the past 30 years, that figure jumped to 20%, and then to 30% as new chemotherapy agents were discovered, he says.

Now, with targeted therapies, Johnson says, "We can start telling our patients they have a nearly 50% chance of being alive in 12 months. I can guarantee you that a patient on Erbitux who is alive a year after diagnosis will tell you this drug is a true advance."

Howard Sandler, MD, professor of radiation and oncology at the University of Michigan, says, "This study has the potential to cause a major change in therapeutic practice, especially for patients who are ineligible for Avastin."

Sandler says that until a head-to-head study pitting Avastin against Erbitux is performed, "I can't say one is worse or better. People could say Avastin extended survival a few weeks more than Erbitux, but that is just not fair. Each showed a survival benefit. Ultimately, the choice will be up to physicians and patients," he says.

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