Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lung Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Drugs That Control Genes May Treat Lung Cancer

Researchers Report Some Success Against Advanced Lung Cancer With Epigenetic Drugs

New Approach to Treating Cancer continued...

The figure from the new study, however, included 11 patients who dropped out of the study before finishing a single cycle of treatment.

Among patients who finished at least one full treatment cycle, the average survival was even higher, about 8.6 months.

What's more, four of 19 patients who got chemotherapy after the experimental drug combo had dramatic responses to those treatments, "raising the hypothesis that maybe the epigenetic therapy is in some way priming the tumor for response to chemotherapy," Rudin says.

In total, seven patients who took part in the trial are still alive; two have survived for more than four years.

Two patients in the study had remarkable results.

In one patient, the cancer completely disappeared for 14 months, though she later developed a different kind of lung cancer that proved fatal.

A second patient saw tumors that had spread to his liver vanish and the primary tumor in his lung shrink.

Researchers described the drugs as well tolerated with few side effects for patients. The most commonly reported side effect was fatigue.

Despite their promising results, researchers say there's still a lot more to be learned before the epigenetic therapy becomes a mainstream treatment.

"This trial is small," Rudin says, "and these results certainly need to be confirmed in a larger study population."

Researchers say larger studies testing the drug combo are already underway.

"This is not yet a study that would in any way impact standard of care for this disease. But I think it opens up a new avenue that may be of real benefit to these patients," Rudin says.

Understanding Epigenetics

The drugs are believed to work by blocking a process that stops the activity of genes that naturally block tumor growth. In some cancers, these genes are switched off, taking out one of the body's natural defenses.

In contrast to drugs that target a specific gene or a mutation in a gene when it shows up in cancers, epigenetic therapies aim to control gene expression.

To help explain how it works, researcher Stephen A. Baylin, MD, professor and deputy director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, likens genes to the hard drive on a computer.

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
Lung Cancer Risks Myths and Facts
cancer fighting foods
Improving Lung Cancer Survival Targeted Therapy
Lung Cancer Surprising Differences Between Sexes
Pets Improve Your Health
Vitamin D
Lung Cancer Surgery Options