Skip to content

Lung Cancer Health Center

Erbitux Helps Treat Advanced Lung Cancer

Study Shows Benefits for Patients With Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 23, 2009 (Berlin) -- Adding the targeted drug Erbitux to standard chemotherapy drugs significantly cuts the risk of death for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer patients -- regardless of what chemotherapy combination is used.

Last year, researchers reported that patients lived five weeks longer when Erbitux was added to a particular chemotherapy combination. But it wasn't clear whether the choice of chemo drugs mattered.

To find out, Jean-Louis Pujol, MD, chair of thoracic oncology at Montpelier Academic Hospital in France, and colleagues pooled data from four trials that looked at Erbitux plus various chemotherapy cocktails.

The analysis, which included 2,018 advanced non-small-cell lung cancer patients, showed that those who got Erbitux had a 13% lower chance of dying within three years than those who got chemotherapy alone.

Among other findings:

  • Patients given chemo alone survived a median of 9.4 months vs. 10.3 months in the chemotherapy plus Erbitux group.
  • Patients who got Erbitux were 10% more likely to be alive and free of cancer at three years compared with those who got chemotherapy alone.
  • Patients who received Erbitux were 48% more likely to experience tumor shrinkage.

The most common side effect was an acne-like rash.

The results were presented at joint meeting of the European Cancer Organization and the European Society of Medical Oncology.

Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer, taking the lives of more than 160,000 Americans last year, according to the American Cancer Society. Non-small-cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for more than 80% of cases.

About four in 10 of cases of non-small-cell lung cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when they have already spread to other parts of the body and are notoriously difficult to treat. Only about 2% of patients with metastatic disease are alive five years after diagnosis.

Erbitux is a monoclonal antibody that blocks the effects of a protein called epidermal growth factor, which fuels tumor growth. It's already approved for treating head and neck as well as colorectal cancers.

Pooling the results of several studies give a more accurate estimate of a drug's true effects than each study alone, says Chris Twelves, MD, co-chairman of the committee that chose which studies to highlight at the meeting.

Today on WebMD

Broken cigarette
Do you know the myths from the facts?
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
 
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
 
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
FEATURE
Lung Cancer Risks Myths and Facts
SLIDESHOW
 
cancer fighting foods
SLIDESHOW
Improving Lung Cancer Survival Targeted Therapy
VIDEO
 
Lung Cancer Surprising Differences Between Sexes
VIDEO
Pets Improve Your Health
SLIDESHOW
 
Vitamin D
SLIDESHOW
Lung Cancer Surgery Options
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections