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New drug gives hope to lung cancer victims


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Very promising drug from phase II trial.


New drug gives hope to lung cancer victims

More people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer and the prognosis for the disease is poor.

It kills more than 26,000 people in Britain each year and an estimated 163,510 deaths from lung cancer occurred in the United States during 2005.

An estimated 1 million people worldwide die from lung cancer annually.

Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, it is estimated that 87 percent of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking.

Other causes include over exposure to radon, asbestos and air pollution.

The expected 5-year survival rate for all patients in whom lung cancer is diagnosed is 15 percent compared to 63 percent for colon, 88 percent for breast and 99 percent for prostate cancer and men have higher rates of lung cancer than females.

About 6 out of 10 people with lung cancer die within 1 year of being diagnosed with the disease and between 7 and 8 will die within 2 years.

Over 3 million people worldwide have lung cancer, the majority residing in developed countries.

Now an experimental lung cancer drug has been shown to extend patients' life expectancy by more than 50% in preliminary trials.

With cancer survival time is the standard by which drugs are judged,and it has been found that patients given the drug AS1404 along with standard chemotherapy survived an average of 14 months compared with 8.8 months if given chemotherapy alone.

In a phase two study, by UK biotech company Antisoma, 70 patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease were given the drug AS1404 which belongs to a new class of compounds called vascular disrupting agents, which work by cutting off the blood supply to tumours.

Solid tumours rely on a network of blood vessels to survive and grow and AS1404 is able to distinguish between blood vessels feeding the tumour and those serving healthy organs because the tumour vessels are more permeable and less well organised than those of healthy tissue.

Dr. Mark McKeage, from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, who co-led the trial, says the large survival benefit with AS1404 in lung cancer patients is cause for optimism and encouraging as they move into phase three testing.

Although AS1404 was developed by scientists in New Zealand the pharmaceutical company it was initially licensed to did not have the resources to develop it further and Cancer Research UK stepped in to take the drug into early-stage clinical trials.

Phase two trials are carried out to see whether the drug or treatment is effective for treating cancer, while phase three trials directly compares the new treatment with standard treatments in order to establish whether the new treatment is better.

Antisoma says the 5.2-month difference is one of the largest ever seen in a randomised controlled trial combining a novel agent with first-line chemotherapy for lung cancer.

Across the duration of the trial, patients treated with AS1404 had a 27 pct lower risk of dying than those receiving chemotherapy alone.

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