Experimental pill found to improve symptoms in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer

a disease that kills about 155,000 Americans each year. Typically, non-small-cell lung cancer is treated with surgery and chemotherapy. But because it is usually diagnosed in its advanced stages, these treatments rarely bring about a cure, leading doctors to try to control their patients cancer with chemotherapy or radiation treatments. The side effects from these treatments, however, can often outweigh any survival benefit that patients might receive.

The challenge for those of us treating patients with advanced lung cancer today, is how we can manage our patients care so that the side effects from these treatments arent worse than the symptoms, commented Dr. Natale.

To find out whether ZD 1839 reduced the symptoms of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, the investigators evaluated 216 patients whose disease had progressed after at least two prior rounds of chemotherapy. Among these patients, 102 were randomly selected to receive 250 mg of ZD 1839 each day, while 114 received a higher dose of the drug at 500 mg. Symptoms of the disease were monitored weekly using a specially developed seven-item questionnaire, in which patients rated the severity of their symptoms on a scale of 0 to 4. Quality of life was measured monthly using a similar self-administered questionnaire. Both questionnaires had been extensively tested and validated in previous lung cancer trials and had been shown to measure meaningful improvements in lung cancer symptoms and patient quality of life. Symptoms were considered to be reduced if the total score on the symptom scale improved by at least two points for greater than a month.

The investigators found that symptoms were significantly reduced in 43 percent of patients receiving the lower dose of ZD 1839, while 34 percent of those receiving the higher dose experienced fewer symptoms. Side effects were minimal and included mild skin reactions and diarrhea. They also found that quality of life was improve

Contact: Kelli Stauning
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

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