Patients suffering from lung cancer that was previously untreated and who have experienced changes in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene can benefit more from a new targeted treatment development by Pfizer than from standard chemotherapy, according to an international study that included researchers from The University of Manchester. Crizotinib is already used in patients whose cancer has become resistant to chemotherapy, but the results of this new study may suggest new indications for the drug.
The study tested the use of Pfizer’s drug crizotinib on patients suffering from anapestic lymphoma kinase (ALK) positive lung cancer who have never been treated with chemotherapy in order to assess its effects, given the fact that the drug had demonstrated positive results in older patients in previous studies. Crizotinib is already administrated to patients who suffer from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and have changes in the ALK gene. The mutation triggers the tumor development, and the drug has been proven effective in the treatment of patients whose disease still progressed after receiving initial chemotherapy.
“In order to introduce precision medicine, where each cancer patient receives treatment designed to target the genetic makeup of their individual cancer, we need to compare how effective the new targeted treatment is compared to standard chemotherapy treatment,” explained Fiona Blackhall, the senior lecturer at The University of Manchester’s Institute of Cancer Sciences and a consultant based at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, which are both part of the Manchester Cancer Research Center.
The research, which was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, included 343 patients with previously untreated ALK-positive advanced NSCLC, and revealed that patients administered with crizotinib saw their symptoms improve. The drug also delayed the growth of the tumor compared to patients who were treated with standard chemotherapy. In addition, the patients reported no unexpected side effects due to the targeted drug.
“There is growing evidence that such targeted therapies can offer greater hope to lung cancer patients. Around 1,600 people are diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in Greater Manchester every year and a proportion of these patients will have the ALK-positive type. Our study findings could change the way we treat these patients,” Blackhall added.
However, the investigators believe that more research is needed, and they are currently waiting for new data in order to assess crizotinib’s ability to increase the overall survival of the patient group.