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

Chemo Might Give Some Lung Cancer Patients an Edge

Traditional treatment offers small advantage for people without a specific gene mutation, study says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Randy Dotinga

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer specialists have been unsure about how best to treat certain patients with an advanced form of lung cancer.

Now, a new analysis of existing research finds that traditional chemotherapy outperforms newer, targeted treatments in delaying the time until the cancer worsens for these patients. However, chemo doesn't extend their survival, the review found.

Patients with non-small cell lung cancer make up 85 percent to 90 percent of lung cancer patients. Some of them have a mutation in a gene that makes their tumors more responsive to medications known as epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors. But most patients with non-small cell lung cancer do not have this mutation, and doctors have been unsure whether this larger group of patients should get chemo or the targeted medication.

"In our opinion, conventional chemotherapy is a better treatment option for patients if patients are in suitable condition for chemotherapy because it is associated with delayed tumor progression and higher rate of tumor shrinkage," said review co-author Dr. Dong-Wan Kim, of the department of internal medicine at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea.

About 10 percent of patients in the West and half of Asian patients have the mutation, according to the study, published in the April 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

People with advanced non-small cell lung cancer typically survive for only 10 to 12 months, said Dr. Suresh Ramalingam, a professor of medical oncology at Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta.

The authors of the new analysis looked at 11 prior studies that included over 1,600 patients who didn't have the mutation.

Overall, half of those on traditional chemotherapy lasted 6.4 months or more before their cancer worsened, the study found. But that midpoint, or median, of progression-free survival was just 4.5 months for those who took medications that help lung cancer patients with the mutation -- erlotinib (Tarceva) and gefitinib (Iressa).

However, the length of time patients lived after the treatment wasn't appreciably different between the two groups.

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