A new study has shown that more than half of patients with a specific kind of lung cancer are responding positively to a treatment that targets the gene that drives their cancer.
The researchdemonstrated 57 percent of patients with ALK-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer responded partially or completely to a tablet called crizotinib, an investigational anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) inhibitor.
In some cases, the cancer becomes undetectable in body scans.
"This study really supports the idea that we should always try to identify the patients that could benefit from a specific treatment in advance. By looking at lung cancer at the molecular level, we were able to find the patients most likely to respond to the ALK inhibitor and put them in this trial," said, one the of the study's authors, D. Ross Camidge.
"About one in 20 lung cancer patients are ALK positive. Most feel better within days of beginning the drug in the trial and many have returned to active lifestyles with their cancer under excellent control" he added.
There were initially 82 ALK-positive lung cancer patients in the trial of the ALK inhibitor. ALK is believed to be a key driver of tumor development in some cancers.
"Initially the cancer melts away, but it's still there. And at some point, it usually figures out a way to get around this particular drug. We need to keep looking for new developments so that when this happens, we can supplement or replace the crizotinib with other treatments to help keep the cancer under long-term control," said Camidge.
The study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.