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Targeting Lung Cancer

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http://www.curetoday.com/currentissue/f ... index.html

By Elizabeth Whittington

The announcement by Peter Jennings that he has lung cancer brought one of the most common of cancers to the living rooms of millions of Americans. In an e-mail informing co-workers and staff at ABC News, Jennings wrote that his diagnosis was a surprise, as it is for many lung cancer patients. This country’s long history of smoking has resulted in an epidemic of lung cancer—the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. What’s more disconcerting is that half of all lung cancer patients are not current smokers, and about 15 percent have never smoked at all.

Advanced lung cancer may be next on the list for Avastin following positive results reported at the 2005 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

While the five-year survival rate for lung cancer patients is only 15 percent, if caught early and before the cancer spreads from the lungs, it jumps to nearly 50 percent. Although a majority of patients diagnosed at the earliest stages of the disease can be cured with surgery followed by chemotherapy, the outlook remains unsatisfactory. Recent results have provided new hope to patients, with advances being made both in patients with early-stage disease as well as those with more advanced disease.

Catching It Early

In early-stage non—small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), surgery offers the best chance for a cure. However, 30 to 40 percent of patients who appear to have complete tumor removal by surgery will have their cancer recur within five years. Chemotherapy given after surgery (called adjuvant chemotherapy) might eliminate the minute, undetectable metastases that are likely to remain following surgery before they have a chance to grow into tumors.

Two phase III clinical trials investigating this issue were reported in 2004 and showed that chemotherapy administered immediately after surgery increased patient survival. In a Canadian trial, one group of patients with early-stage NSCLC was treated with a chemotherapy regimen after surgery, while a second group received no treatment following surgical removal of their tumor. A comparison of the two groups showed that the patients receiving chemotherapy had a median survival time of 7.8 years, 21 months longer than the group without chemotherapy. The second trial also showed improved survival with 11 percent fewer deaths and relapses among patients receiving chemotherapy compared with the group without chemotherapy.

At the 2005 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology another trial (ANITA) confirmed the benefit of chemotherapy after surgery in lung cancer.

Taken together, these trials suggest chemotherapy following surgery can prolong survival in early-stage lung cancer patients.

The Avastin Advantage

When Connie DeWitt, a 56-year-old from Laverne, Tennessee, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002, it caught her by surprise because she had never been a smoker. Luckily, it was caught early enough to treat with surgery, but three years later, the cancer returned.

“At first, when they told me the cancer had come back, I looked at it as a death sentence,â€

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