Genetic Characteristics May be Key to Deciding Right Lung Cancer Treatments

Diagnostic tests that look for specific genetic or molecular characteristics may be the key to helping doctors decide which lung cancer treatments work best for patients, two studies released on Wednesday suggest.
In one, researchers found AstraZeneca's ( AZN.L ) lung cancer pill Iressa, or gefitinib, worked far better than chemotherapy in people from East Asia whose tumors had specific mutations in genes for the epidermal growth factor receptor or EGFR.
In another, a Spanish team found that people in Europe whose tumors also had mutations in the EGFR gene were more likely to be helped by Roche's ( ROG.VX ) erlotinib, brand name Tarceva, than other lung cancer patients , Reuters reports.

"They proved that it is worthy to test patients for the [epidermal growth factor receptor gene] mutations, and that if you have the mutations you are going to do well," said Dr. Edgardo Santos, an assistant professor of medicine in the hematology and oncology section at the University of Miami's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. "If we are moving toward personalized medicine in the future, I think this is the way to go -- that patients be tested and use the drug if indicated." , U.S. News & World Report reports.

Meanwhile, among patients with a mutation in EGFR, gefitinib therapy reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 52% (p < 0.001). By contrast, in subjects without EGFR mutations, carboplatin-paclitaxel was more effective, with gefitinib increasing the odds of progression or death by 185%.

Side effects were common with both treatment regimens. Rash or acne and diarrhea were the most common with gefitinib, while neurotoxic effects, neutropenia, and alopecia were the most common with carboplatin-paclitaxel.

In the second study, Dr. Rafael Rosell, from Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol in Badalona, Spain, and colleagues analyzed data from 2105 patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer to assess the feasibility of screening for EGFR mutations and to examine the association with erlotinib response , news Stories reports.

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