Drug gives lung can­cer pa­tients four ex­tra months

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Most lung can­cer pa­tients sur­vived four months longer on an im­munother­apy drug than those treated with chemo­ther­apy, ac­cord­ing to trial re­sults pub­lished Mon­day.

Im­por­tantly, they also ex­pe­ri­enced fewer side-ef­fects, re­searchers re­ported in The Lancet med­i­cal jour­nal. Pa­tients with non-small-cell lung can­cer-which rep­re­sents by far the ma­jor­ity-sur­vived for 13.8 months on av­er­age on the drug called ate­zolizumab, com­pared to 9.6 months for those on chemo­ther­apy, the study au­thors said. And the dif­fer­ence was likely even big­ger, as sev­eral par­tic­i­pants on chemo­ther­apy were given im­munother­apy af­ter the trial ended, pos­si­bly boost­ing their sur­vival. “Ate­zolizumab rein­vig­o­rates pa­tients’ im­mune sys­tems against can­cer,” the study’s lead au­thor Achim Rittmeyer of the Univer­sity of Goet­tin­gen in Ger­many, said in a state­ment.

“Our trial has shown that this has sig­nif­i­cant re­sults for their sur­vival.” Lung can­cer is the most com­mon can­cer, af­fect­ing some 1.8 mil­lion peo­ple in the world ev­ery year, said Rittmeyer. It is also the lead­ing cause of can­cer death in the world. Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety, 80-85 per­cent of lung can­cers are non-small-cell types. The trial re­cruited 850 pa­tients with­out any re­main­ing treat­ment op­tions, and com­pared how long they sur­vived-half on ate­zolizumab and the rest on chemo­ther­apy, the stan­dard treat­ment. Im­munother­apy trains peo­ple’s im­mune sys­tems to attack tu­mor cells with­out killing healthy cells.

Chemo­ther­apy, in con­trast, tar­gets all fast-di­vid­ing cells in the body, good and bad alike. Un­like viruses or bac­te­ria, can­cer cells are not in­trud­ers but our own cells gone hay­wire, which ex­plains why they cir­cu­late undis­turbed by the im­mune sys­tem. Still in its in­fancy, im­munother­apy-in­clud­ing ate­zolizumab-is be­ing tested on many can­cer types. In Oc­to­ber, Amer­ica’s Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion fast-tracked ate­zolizumab for the treat­ment of pa­tients with non­s­mall-cell lung can­cer. —AFP

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