The study, presented at the 38th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Orlando, Florida, evaluated 216 patients with recurrent non-small-cell lung cancer who had undergone two or more rounds of chemotherapy. One group of patients received 250 mg of ZD 1839 (Iressa) daily, while the second group received ZD 1839 at 500 mg each day until the disease progressed. The investigators found that lung cancer symptoms, such as cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, appetite and fatigue, were greatly improved in about 40 percent of patients. Further, they found that symptom improvement was associated with a longer survival.
Our results show that patients who felt better after taking ZD 1839, actually lived longer than those whose symptoms did not improve, said Dr. Natale. This is important because it shows that a daily pill reduced symptoms such to the extent that many of our patients were able to resume their normal activities and enjoy life for longer.
ZD 1839 (Iressa), a pill developed by AstraZeneca, has been found to work in both laboratory and clinical trials by targeting and blocking a key growth signaling mechanism in cancer cells called the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Otherwise known as HER1, the EGFR is a part of the HER kinase family of proteins that control cell growth and can stimulate the spread of cancer when over-expressed on malignant cells.