An extremely promising experimental drug, called crizotinib for lung cancer patients with a specific gene has shrunk tumors in 90% of patients in a clinical study within two months, researchers from Pfizer. Inc. said. With expectations of just a 10% response rate to this new medication - which would have been good news anyway - a 90% rate surprised everybody.
The 80 patients involved in the trial had advanced lung cancer, in a number of cases the cancer had already spread to the brain. Most of them had already tried 3 other medications.
Study leader, Dr. Yung-Jue Bang, Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea, said that responses to crizotinib have so far lasted up to 15 months - it has been fast-tracked into late-stage testing.
Crizotinib targets a gene that promotes the growth of the tumor, i.e. it targets that genetic defect in the cancer cell. Approximately 1 in every 20 patients with lung cancer has this gene (a specific re-arrangement of the ALK gene) - mainly younger patients who do not and have not smoked. Approximately, 10,000 people with this gene are diagnosed with lung cancer in the USA each year.
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