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Pfizer Drug Effective for Patients with Rare Genetic Lung Cancer

Update Date: Sep 27, 2014 10:24 AM EDT

According to the results from a clinical trial, a Pfizer drug was effective in treating people with a rare form of lung cancer caused by a specific gene mutation. The drug, Xalkori, was capable of reducing the tumor size, the researchers reported.

The researchers tested the drug on 50 patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. Their cancer was a result from the rearrangement of the ROS1 gene. In 72 percent of the group, or 36 patients, the drug helped shrink their tumor size significantly. In nine additional patients, Xalkori treatment, which is chemically called crizotinib, stopped their tumors from growing.

"This is the first definitive study to establish crizotinib's activity in a large group of patients with ROS1-positive lung cancer and confirms that ROS1 is a bona fide therapeutic target in those patients," Dr. Alice Shaw, the study's lead investigator from the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, said in a statement reported by Reuters. "The remissions induced by crizotinib in ROS1-positive patients are quite prolonged, and (treatment) resistance appears to emerge much later, on average, than what we have seen with other targeted therapies for lung cancer and melanoma."

In the patients who responded to the treatment, the average duration of response was 17 months. They took the drug orally twice a day. Half of the patients continued treatment and their tumors have not progressed.

Xalkori was approved for people with a mutation in their ALK gene. The mutation has been tied to causing four percent of all non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). In roughly one to two percent of these patients, they have the rare form of the cancer and are ROS1 positive. There are about 1.5 million new cases of NSCLC every year.

The study, "Crizotinib in ROS1-Rearranged Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer," was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2014 meeting in Madrid, Spain.

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