The addition of gefinitib to chemotherapy may help patients undergoing treatment for advanced head and neck cancers, a new study has revealed.
"We found that adding gefinitib to standard chemotherapy was well-tolerated by patients who had already received chemotherapy or were frail," said Ethan Argiris, M.D., associate professor of medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and co-leader of the Head and Neck Cancer Program of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI).
"We had hoped this study would improve the survival rate of patients, but while gefinitib did postpone spread of the disease, it did not increase survival rates. The finding that the addition of gefinitib to chemotherapy can delay the growth of head and neck cancer suggests a potential beneficial effect from combination therapy," Argiris added.
One group of 136 patients in the placebo-controlled study received docetaxel alone, a standard treatment for head and neck cancer. A second group of 134 patients received gefinitib in addition to docetaxel.
This was the first phase III randomized trial to examine the addition of gefinitib to chemotherapy for patients with head and neck cancer.
Gefinitib, which also is known by the trade name Iressa, is a targeted therapy against the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapies. Patients were able to take the drug orally and tolerated it well.
Argiris is planning to conduct further studies to identify the subsets of patients most likely to respond to the drug and to examine patients' quality of life while taking the combination therapy.
The results will be disclosed at the 45th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) on May 30 in Orlando, Fla.