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New Drug Halves Risk of Death in Type of Lung Cancer

Scientists have discovered a pill that reduces the risk of death in type of lung cancer
New research reveals that a simple pill has the potential to reduce the risk of death by half in a specific type of lung cancer. Credit: Harrygouvas / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

A new study presented on June 4 at a major cancer conference in Chicago has revealed that a simple pill can reduce the chances of dying from a specific form of lung cancer by half. This exciting development comes after patients underwent surgery to remove the tumor.

The study findings were announced during the American Society for Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) renowned annual conference, which gathers the world’s top cancer experts.

Lung cancer new treatment

Lung cancer is responsible for the highest number of deaths caused by this disease, claiming around 1.8 million lives annually worldwide.

A pharmaceutical company called AstraZeneca has developed a treatment called osimertinib, which is commercially known as Tagrisso. This medication explicitly targets a type of lung cancer known as non-small cell cancer, the most common form. It is designed for patients who have a specific type of mutation.

These mutations occur in a protein called the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), affecting approximately 10 to 25 percent of lung cancer patients in the United States and Europe. In Asia, the prevalence is even higher, with 30 to 40 percent of patients having these mutations.

Comprehensive clinical trial

In a comprehensive clinical trial conducted across over 20 countries, approximately 680 individuals in the early stages of lung cancer (specifically stages 1b to 3a) participated.

These individuals had already undergone surgery to remove the tumor. Half of the participants were assigned to take the treatment medication daily, while the other half received a placebo.

The results of the study revealed a significant finding: those who took the medication experienced a remarkable 51 percent decrease in the risk of death compared to those who received the placebo. This outcome highlights the potentially life-saving benefits of the treatment for patients in the early stages of lung cancer.

Results of the trials

Remarkably, after a five-year period, a striking 88 percent of patients who received the treatment medication were still alive, in comparison to 78 percent of patients who were given the placebo.

Presenting these remarkable findings in Chicago, Roy Herbst from Yale University described the data as “impressive.” He further emphasized that the drug plays a crucial role in preventing the cancer from spreading to vital organs such as the brain, liver, and bones.

Herbst shared these insights during a press conference, shedding light on the significant impact this medication can have on patients’ long-term survival and quality of life.

According to Roy Herbst, it is estimated that around one-third of non-small cell lung cancer cases can be treated with surgery if detected early.

More details about osimertinib

In a press release, AstraZeneca stated that osimertinib has already received authorization in numerous countries for various medical purposes. Moreover, this medication has been administered to approximately 700,000 individuals.

In 2020, osimertinib obtained approval in the United States for treating early stages of lung cancer. This approval was based on previous data indicating improved patients’ disease-free survival. In other words, the medication demonstrated the ability to prolong the period during which patients remain free of cancer recurrence.

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