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New drug treats rare form of lung cancer

Published on 04/12/2012

A new drug to treat a rare form of lung cancer could soon be available to treat private health insurance patients, after showing promise in early trials.

New drug crizotinib treats a rare form of lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common form of lung cancer. About five per cent of sufferers have an overactive protein called ALK that can stimulate cancer cells to grow.

Patients with the overactive protein are typically younger than average, and their form of lung cancer is not closely linked to smoking.

But a new drug called crizotinib has been given an early license after successfully blocking the overactive ALK protein.

Crizotinib, marketed as Xalkori, is the latest in a new generation of cancer drugs tailored to individuals with specific genetic make-ups. Patients who can benefit from the drug are identified by analysing tissue samples.

In the latest study of 347 lung patients, the drug doubled the time taken for treated tumours to start growing again or stop shrinking.

In addition, patients taking Crizotinib had a progression-free survival of 7.7 months, compared with three months for those on standard chemotherapy.

Whilst long-term survival rates on the drug have not been studied, researchers believe it has the potential to extend lives.

Dr Ekaterini Boleti, a member of the trial team from the Royal Free Hospital, London, said: “It's not a miracle drug, but it's a huge leap forward.

“We see this as the beginning of a new era of cancer treatment... [that is] much more targeted and personalised.”

Crizotinib is likely to receive a full license after all trial data has been processed. Once the drug is licensed in the UK, it will be covered by a number of leading health insurers like Bupa and Aviva.

However, the drug will have to be assessed and deemed cost effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence before being made widely available in the UK.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012

Categories:  Medical
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