Doubling Progression-Free Survival

Lung cancer responds better to Tarceva than chemotherapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Being diagnosed with lung cancer usually means months of chemotherapy followed by a relapse. That outlook is changing for the better.

Researchers in France have discovered that compared to chemotherapy, Tarceva (erlotinib) doubles progression-free survival of people suffering from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

"Ask your oncologist if Tarceva is better than chemotherapy."

Tarceva is known as a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) that targets the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). That means it goes after a specific protein - EGFR - and blocks an enzyme inside the cell tyrosine kinase that drives tumor growth.

Lead investigator, Radj Gervais, M.D., of the Centre François Baclesse in Caen, France, says this study is the largest of its type involving Western patients, noting that most lung cancer trials involve people from Asia.

More than 1,000 patients were tested over five years to narrow study particants to 174 patients. They were randomly assigned to receive either Tarceva or chemotherapy.

Preliminary study results found:

  • 54.5 percent of patients responded to Tarceva, while 10.5 percent responded to chemotherapy
  • Progression-free survival with Tarceva was 9.4 months, compared to 5.3 months for patients receiving chemotherapy
  • Median survival for those who took Tarceva was 22.9 months, compared to 18.8 months for patients in the chemotherapy arm

Dr. Gervais says that the nearly doubling of progression-free survival (9.4 vs. 5.3 months) shows Tarceva delivers significant improvements over chemotherapy. He adds that side effects were also milder with Tarceva than chemotherapy.

This research was presented at the 14th World Conference on Lung Cancer in Amsterdam, hosted by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC). These are considered preliminary findings until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In addition to lung cancer, Tarceva is also approved for the treating pancreatic cancer.

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Review Date: 
August 4, 2011
Last Updated:
August 7, 2011