Dr. Philip D. Bonomi, director of the Division of Hematology-Oncology at Rush and principal investigator of the study, is testing whether the combination of Tarceva (erlotinib) and Celebrex (celecoxib) can shrink tumors, relieve symptoms and offer improvement and survival for patients with stage IV lung cancer.
This is the one of the first efforts involving the combination of two targeted therapies in the treatment of advanced lung cancer without chemotherapy. Molecular profiles on each patient's tumor can be evaluated to see which patients might respond better.
"This therapy is being tested in patients who have already been treated with chemotherapy, have their disease progressing, and can provide tissue for profiling. We've recruited 10 patients so far, and expect to enroll 50 among the IV sites in the study."
Targeted therapy is based on the idea that a drug will attack its target without damaging other tissue. This combination therapy is better at focusing on abnormal signals that drive cancer cells, while sparing more of the body's healthier cells. By blocking essential pathways within tumor cells, the therapy works inside of the cell with minimal effects on noncancerous cells. The drugs reduce the cancer by blocking the process by which cancer cells divide, grow and spread.
Bonomi says that Tarceva "aims to slow cancer growth by blocking the action of a molecule called the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR, a protein found in the cell membrane of some cells, but found at an abnormally high rate in cancer cells. The protein triggers cells to divide at an accelerated rate, which allows the abnormal cancer cells to grow and spread.