Researchers have found that a combination of the drug cetuximab (Erbitux) with chemotherapy can significantly reduce death risk in lung cancer patients.
The study showed that patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer who are given cetuximab (Erbitux) in addition to chemotherapy are 13pct less likely to die than those who receive chemotherapy alone, regardless of which chemotherapy drug cocktail is used.
The patients also experienced slower disease progression and an increased chance of tumour shrinkage.
The researchers combined the data from four trials that investigated the addition of cetuximab to various different platinum-based chemotherapy combinations in first-line treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
"We found that patients who got cetuximab had a 13percent lower chance of dying within the three years of follow-up compared with those who got chemotherapy alone," said Professor Jean-Louis Pujol, chair of thoracic oncology at Montpelier Academic Hospital and professor of medicine at Montpelier University in France.
"For lung cancer, considering that this disease is very resistant to treatment and that the prognosis is very poor, an improvement of that magnitude is meaningful. It's about the same as what you get from giving chemotherapy after surgery and that's accepted as standard treatment," the expert added.
The median survival, a more crude measure of the drug's effect on death, was 9.4 months in the chemotherapy alone group and 10.3 months in the chemotherapy plus cetuximab group.
The researchers also found 10pct improvement progression free survival, which measures the length of time a patient survives before the cancer gets worse.
The study also found that patients who received the addition of cetuximab were 48pct more likely to experience tumour shrinkage.
The findings were presented at Europe's largest cancer congress, ECCO 15 - ESMO 34.