Lung Cancer: Drug Improves Both Survival and Quality of Life

Armen Hareyan's picture
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PMH investigators and their National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC) Clinical Trials Group colleagues report that administering erlotinib - a drug that blocks growth signals - to non-small cell lung cancer patients who have been previously treated with chemotherapy improves not only the length of survival for patients, but also their quality of life.

In 2005, Dr. Frances Shepherd reported in the New England Journal of Medicine on 731 patients enrolled in the trial. Patients given daily tablets of erlotinib had an improved one-year survival rate compared to patients who were taking an inactive pill (31% vs 22% one-year survival, respectively).

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Dr. Andrea Bezjak, the quality of life coordinator for that trial, recently described the results of symptoms and quality of life analyses in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The major tumour-related symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath and pain were controlled for significantly longer in patients treated with erlotinib and their overall physical function and quality of life remained stable for longer than patients in the control arm.

Says Dr. Bezjak, "As an oncologist, it is important to offer medications that not only extend survival but also alleviate tumour-related symptoms to improve the patient's quality of life. Erlotinib has emerged as a drug that advances both."

J Clin Oncol. 2006 Aug 20;24(24):3831-7. N Engl J Med. 2005 Jul 14;353(2):123-32. Research supported in part by a grant to NCIC-Clinical Trials Group from OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc.

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