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First Targeted Treatment To Boost Survival For Oesophageal Cancer

Update Date: Nov 05, 2014 02:47 PM EST

Patients suffering from a specific type of oesophageal cancer survived longer when they were given the latest lung cancer drug, according to trial results. 

Up to one in six patients with oesophageal cancer were found to have EGFR duplication in their tumor cells and taking the drug gefitinib, which targets this fault, boosted their survival by up to six months, and sometimes beyond, the press release added.

It is the first treatment for advanced oesophageal cancer that has shown improved survival in patients whose initial course of chemotherapy treatment has failed. 

It is also the first time a targeted treatment of any kind has proved effective in this disease, according to the press release. 

"This is exciting news in our field. It's the first time any drug has shown survival benefit for oesophageal patients who have stopped responding to their initial treatment. To date there's been disappointingly little progress in treating this cancer type, which kills nearly 8,000 people a year and sadly is often diagnosed late making it difficult to treat successfully," said Dr Russell Petty, a medical oncologist from the University of Aberdeen in the press release.

"It's thought that up to 16 per cent of oesophageal cancer patients could benefit from gefitinib, providing valuable extra months of life to people who would otherwise have had very few options available to them."

The trial results were presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference.

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