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Health News of Monday, 5 June 2023


New Lung cancer pill cuts death risk by half, study finds

Cancer treatment Cancer treatment

A pill has been shown to halve the risk of death from a certain type of lung cancer when taken daily.

The clinical trial data was released in Chicago on Sunday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, which is the largest annual conference of cancer specialists.

Taking the drug known as osimertinib, which was developed by AstraZeneca, if taken daily after surgery, reduces the risk of death, the new study stated.

According to the researchers, it can dramatically reduce the risk of death by 51 per cent in patients, whose tumours have been removed surgically,

Lung cancer is known to cause the most deaths, with approximately 1.8 million fatalities recorded globally every year.

The treatment developed by the pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca targets a particular type of lung cancer in patients suffering from non-small cell cancer, the most common type, and that shows a particular type of mutation.

These mutations or what is called the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), affect 10 per cent to 25 per cent of lung cancer patients in the United States and Europe, and 30 to 40 per cent in Asia.

The clinical trial included some 680 participants with early onset of the disease, in more than 20 countries.

The participants had been operated on to have the tumour removed, then half took the treatment daily, while the other half a placebo.

The result showed that taking the tablet resulted in a 51 per cent reduction in the risk of death for treated patients when compared against those placed on placebo.

After five years, 88 per cent of patients who took the treatment were still alive, as against 78 per cent of those that took the placebo.

These data are “impressive”, said Roy Herbst of Yale University, who presented them in Chicago.

“The drug helps to prevent the cancer from spreading to the brain, to the liver, to the bones”, he added.

Roy said about a third of cases of non-small cell cancers can be operated on when detected.

“This is a pretty dramatic and remarkable improvement,” said Dave Fredrickson, executive vice president of oncology at AstraZeneca said in an interview with Reuters.

“It is hard for me to convey, I think, how important this finding is,” said Nathan Pennell of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

“We started entering the personalised therapy era for early-stage patients,” said Pennell, who did not take part in the trials.

He noted that “we should firmly close the door on one-size-fits-all treatment for people with non-small cell lung cancer.”

Osimertinib is already authorised in dozens of countries for various indications and has already been given to some 700,000 people, according to a press release from AstraZeneca.

Its approval in the US for early stages in 2020 was based on previous data that showed an improvement in patient disease-free survival, that is, the time a patient lives without a recurrence of cancer.

But not all doctors have adopted the treatment, and many are waiting for the data on overall survival that was presented on Sunday, said Herbst.

He stressed the need to screen patients to find out if they have the EGFR mutation. Otherwise, he said, “We cannot use this new treatment”.

Osimertinib, which targets the receptor, causes side effects that include severe fatigue, skin rashes or diarrhoea.