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New treatment extends survival for patients with advanced lung cancer

(Toronto July 13, 2005) An international clinical trial led by Canadian researchers has demonstrated that a drug called erlotinib increases survival in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer who typically have no other treatment options.

The trial, funded by the Canadian Cancer Society and published in tomorrow's issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, involved 731 patients at centres in North and South America, Europe, Israel, New Zealand, Asia and South Africa. The patients had already received at least one or two regimens of chemotherapy and were randomly assigned to one of two groups: 488 patients received erlotinib and 243 received a placebo. The researchers found that treatment with erlotinib resulted in longer survival compared to the placebo. Patients who received erlotinib survived an average of 6.7 months, while patients on placebo survived an average of 4.7 months a 42.5 per cent improvement. Of the patients receiving erlotinib, 31 per cent were alive after one year, compared to only 22 per cent of patients receiving placebo. Unlike many chemotherapies, erlotinib was generally well-tolerated and caused only minor side effects.

"This drug offers a new treatment option to patients at a time in their disease when they have no other options," says Dr. Frances Shepherd, the study's principal investigator, holder of the Scott Taylor Chair in Lung Cancer Research and medical oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital, and professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. "Not only does erlotinib help them live longer, but it also improves their physical function, their quality of life, and it improves their symptoms of cough, shortness of breath and pain."

Dr. Barbara Whylie, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, says, "This is a welcome advance in the treatment of lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer death in Canada. Canadian researchers continue to be at the forefront of new advances in the fight against this d
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Contact: Jennifer Kohm
416-946-2846
University of Toronto
13-Jul-2005


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