Lessening the Mortality of Advanced Lung Cancer

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University of Colorado Cancer Center’s researchers have devised a tool that will help identify key biomarkers in advanced lung cancer. In a clinical trial, the said tool was said to have decreased the risk of death by 36% for the past thirty month period.

“We are moving from a one-size-fits-all model to more personalized medicine in lung cancer,” shared Professor Fred Hirsch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, who is also a Cancer Center investigator. He designed the test along with other colleagues. “This is a completely new paradigm in treating cancer.”

Back in 2003, Hirsch and his colleagues developed the scoring system which identified patients with the highest levels of the protein called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). The patients were rated in a scale from 0 to 400 and those with EGFR scores of greater than 200 had a better prognosis and survival rate.

Said the National Cancer Institute, lung cancer is a type of cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These types are diagnosed based on how the cells look under a microscope.

In the FLEX study which was conducted by European researchers, it was found out that about 30% of the patients with advanced lung cancer who took part in the study had high levels of EGFR as identified by the University of Colorado Cancer Center Test.

The trial involved around 1,125 cancer patients and these patients were separated into two groups. One of the groups received standard chemotherapy regimen while the other group had undergone chemotherapy and given the drug Cetuximab. Cetuximab is an antibody that attaches to EGFR receptors located along the surface of lung cancer cells and often this slows down their growth.

With the use of the Cancer Center Test, the trial showed that patients with an increased levels of EGFR who were treated with chemotherapy and cetuximab have 36% lower death risks than those who are treated with standard chemotherapy. Cetuximab, with the brand name Erbitux, is a drug commonly used for colorectal cancer and head and neck cancers.

According to Hirsch, this test is another step in determining the best and most effective therapy for patients with advanced lung cancer. “With this personalized medicine we can identify subgroups of patients that can get better effects from certain drugs. In some cases there is a potential for a cure. Right now the cure rate for advanced lung cancer is two to three percent at best. This is a huge improvement but everything is based on the selection criteria.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, more people in the United States die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. This is true for both men and women. In 2007 (the most recent year numbers are available)—

  • 203,536 people in the United States were diagnosed with lung cancer, including 109,643 men and 93,893 women.
  • 158,683 people in the United States died from lung cancer, including 88,329 men and 70,354 women.




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