Eli Lilly investigators recently reported that they were able to prolong survival in patients with advanced, non small cell lung cancer who relapsed after initial treatment. The results of the drug ramucirumab were demonstrated by a late-stage study.
The clinical trial included 1,253 patients, who received either ramucirumab with the common chemotherapy drug docetaxel or the chemotherapy alone. The first group lived an average of more six weeks (10.5 months) than the second group, which lived 9.1 months.
Despite the small difference, researchers believe the results are statistically significant and clinically meaningful, since advanced lung cancer registers extremely poor survival projections after initial treatment. The data of the study was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago.
“This is the first treatment in approximately a decade to improve the outcome of patients” with relapsed cancer, Dr. Maurice Perol, the study’s lead investigator and head of thoracic oncology at Cancer Research Center of Lyon in France, said in a statement.
The drug developed by Lilly’s ImClone units blocks the formation of the blood vessels that nourish the tumor growth. Ramucirumab won U.S. approval in April as a treatment to advanced gastric cancer, with the brand name Cyramza.
Not only has the survival data been encouraging, but also the study indicated progression-free survival — the average time until the deterioration of the disease — lasted an average of 4.5 months, compared to three months for the second group. In 22.9 percent of the ramucirumab and chemotherapy patients, the tumor decreased in size, while only 13.6 percent of the patients treated only with chemotherapy saw a reduction in the size of their tumor.
“Ramucirumab is an effective targeted agent when added to chemotherapy, with low toxicity,” Dr. Gregory Masters, a lung cancer specialist, said in commenting on the research on behalf of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Researchers verified the benefits of the drug were consistent with the presence of squamous or non-squamous forms of the disease, which suggests that ramucirumab may be suitable for the major subtypes of non small cell lung cancer.
“This will be a significant benefit to those patients whose cancer progresses following initial chemotherapy,” said Masters, who is with Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Delaware.
One of the main necessities in the struggle against lung cancer is second-line treatments, improved therapies for non-small cell lung cancer, since virtually all patients eventually suffer relapses.
Lung cancer is most deadly cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. About 224,200 new cases of lung cancer are estimates for 2014 and more than 159,200 deaths caused by the disease.