Promising New Drug Shrinks Some Lung Cancer Tumors

Researchers say a new drug called crizotinib shows promise for treating specific types of lung cancer. In clinical trials,crizotinib reduced the size of lung cancer tumorsdramatically. Within 8 weeks of starting treatment ,lung cancer was stabilized in 87 percent of patient enrolled in Phase I/II clinical trials.

Lyudmila Bazhenova, MD, assistant clinical professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and a member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center says the first two trials are "encouraging", but the Phase III trials will determine if crizotinib will go to market. If so, approximately four percent of patients with a specific type of lung cancer would benefit from the drug.

Crizotinib works by inhibiting a specific enzyme present in approximately four percent of patients with NSCLC or non small cell lung carcinoma that results in the fusion of two genes - ALK and EML4 - that in turn produces an enzyme that promotes lung cancer tumor growth.

Lung cancer patients who were former light smokers, never smoked, or have the adenocarcinoma subtype of lung cancer are among the specific group of patients who might be helped by crizotinib.

In the Phase III trial researchers will compare crizotinib to standard chemotherapy. Those who fail chemotherapy will be treated with crizotinib at the end of the trial. In Phase I/II clinical trials, crizotinib reduced 57 percent of tumors in the patients studied, and after eight weeks 87 percent showed no progression of lung cancer.

Potential candidates for crizotinib treatment should call the clinical trials hotline at Moores UCSD Cancer Center at (858)822-5354. The trial will include patients with stage IV NSCLC lung cancer who have had at least one round of chemotherapy.

UC San Diego