New Lung Cancer Drug Crizotinib Shows Promise
A new drug for lung cancer, crizotinib, has shown great promise in both Phase I and II clinical trials, and is now being readied for Phase III scrutiny. The new drug trial is being offered by the Moores UCSD Cancer Center and is for individuals who have a specific type of non-small cell lung cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, comprising 85 to 90 percent of all cases of the disease. Three subtypes of NSCLC include squamous cell carcinoma, which make up about 25 to 30 percent of all lung cancers; adenocarcinoma, which make up about 40 percent; and large-cell carcinoma, which accounts for about 10 to 15 percent.
Overall, an estimated 219,440 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society, with an estimated 159,390 deaths. Lung cancer deaths account for about 28 percent of all deaths from cancer. About 66 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer are older than 65.
With such dire statistics, any new treatment that shows promise is of great interest. According to Lyudmila Bazhenova, MD, assistant clinical professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and a member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, “the results of the first two trials [of crizotinib] have been very encouraging.” Therefore scientists are eager to see what the Phase III clinical trial results will bring, as they “will be critical in determining if this drug goes to market,” says Bazhenova.
In the Phase I and II trials, 57 percent of patients who received crizotinib experienced a reduction in their tumors. After eight weeks of treatment, 87 percent of the patients had stable disease.
Crizotinib is designed to treat a specific type of non-small cell lung cancer. In about 4 percent of patients with NSCLC, a certain gene (anaplastic lymphoma kinase, ALK) may fuse with another gene, EML4. When they do, an enzyme is produced that promotes lung cancer cell growth. Crizotinib inhibits the enzyme, which then allows the cancer cells to die.
In the upcoming Phase III clinical trial, researchers will compare crizotinib with standard lung cancer chemotherapy in patients who have ALK-positive recurrent non-small cell lung cancer. Candidates for the Phase III trial of crizotinib must have stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer and have tried at least one round of chemotherapy. Patients will be tested for the gene at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center. For more information, visit the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.
American Cancer Society
University of California, San Diego