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Drug giant Pfizer have discovered a drug which treats lung cancer patients who have a specific gene mutation. The drug, known as Xalkori, proved within multiple studies that it is effective in shrinking tumours in those with a rare form of the disease.
In a study conducted by the company at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Centre in Boston, 50 non-small cell lung cancer patients with differences in their ALK gene due to the ROS1 protein were treated with the new drug Xalkori. Significant tumour shrinkage was reported in around 72 per cent of the participants, and managed to halt tumour growth in at least nine per cent of the people tested – a fantastic achievement.
The patients received Xalkori, chemical name crizotinib, in a three-week cycle, twice daily. Results showed that substantially more (65%) patients who were treated with Xalkori had a tumour response when compared to patients with similar conditions being treated with just chemotherapy (just 20%).
Only around 2% of lung cancer patients have the mutated ROS1 gene, and although this seems like a small number, should the drug prove to be effective and approved for general use, it could potentially help thousands of people every single day.
The ROS1 protein is responsible for the mutation of the ALK gene. When the gene is mutated, it often fuses with the EML4 gene which can drive tumour growth.
Dr Alice Shaw led the study and was quoted saying, “This is the first definitive study to establish Xalkori’s activity in a large group of patients with ROS1-positive lung cancer and confirms that ROS1 is a bona fide therapeutic target in those patients.”
Patients with non-small cell lung cancer often have limited treatment options. Only a third of patients experience tumour shrinkage with standard chemotherapy, so a need for a specific focused treatment is great.