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Lung cancer drug in clinical trial at hospital

Published 12:06 pm, Saturday, August 16, 2014
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A new lung cancer drug is now available through a clinical trial at Norwalk Hospital and is considered promising for patients with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer, according to a news release from the hospital. The medicine targets a specific gene mutation in their tumors, according to Dr. Richard Frank, oncologist/hematologist.

There are two major types of lung cancer, non-small cell and small cell. Diagnostic testing guides treatment by determining the type and stage of the cancer, as well as genetic mutations in the cancer cells. Based on this information, the treatment of lung cancer is increasingly tailored for each patient.

Today, oncologists will order DNA testing on a lung cancer specimen to see if it contains an alteration in a specific gene, such as the epidermal growth factor receptor. In these situations, the EGFR mutant is a strong driver of cancer growth, and blocking the EGFR from working often causes the cancer to go into remission, he said.

"Patients with cancers that harbor an EGFR mutation are treated with erlotinib (Tarceva) or afatinib (Gilotrif), oral therapies that specifically block EGFR from functioning."

Scientists have discovered that in more than half of these cases, a new DNA mutation has developed in EGFR, called T790M, according to the hospital. The T790M mutation, according to Frank, causes erlotinib and afatinib to lose their effectiveness.

"Fortunately, newer medicines are in development that block EGFR despite the presence of T790M. The drug that we are testing in Norwalk is one of these new medicines," he said.

In this clinical trial, eligible patients with lung cancer that harbors an EGFR mutation and that has progressed despite treatment with erlotinib or afatinib will have their cancers tested for the presence of T790M. If this mutation is present, they will receive the new medicine. All patients will receive this study drug; there is no placebo.

For information, call 203-852-2996.