SUNDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- While most patients with
advanced lung cancer only take four courses of two chemotherapy
drugs and then stop until recurrence occurs, continuing treatment
with one of those drugs may delay return of the deadly disease, new
The results are preliminary, but Spanish scientists report that
staying on Alimta (pemextrexed) delayed recurrence of the
"This is the first trial with what looks like a positive outcome where you continue the same treatment," said Dr. Neal Ready, a professor of medicine at the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C. "All the other positive trials in the past switched chemotherapy regimens, so this is a true 'maintenance' approach" in that doctors maintained the patients on the same drug.
Although overall survival data is not yet in, "if it all bears
out and that looks good, this would influence medical oncologists
to continue treatment after the standard combination of two
chemotherapies at the same time," Ready said.
The findings, which were presented Sunday at the annual meeting
of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, was funded
by Lilly, which makes Alimta.
In this study, almost 1,000 patients with advanced nonsquamous
non-small cell lung cancer were given a typical four courses of
Alimta and cisplatin. The 539 patients who saw their disease
stabilize were then randomly chosen to receive Alimta or a
Participants taking Alimta lived an average of 4.1 months
without a disease recurrence compared to 2.8 months in the placebo
"There was a decrease of 38 percent in the risk of progression, which we believe is clinically significant and may support the use of this in a clinical context," said study author Dr. Luis Paz-Ares, chair of oncology at Seville University Hospital in Seville, Spain, who spoke at a Sunday news conference.
Side effects were about the same as those seen in previous
trials of Alimta, with the only significant increases in problems
being fatigue, anemia and low white blood cell count.
But in all those cases, the incidence was lower than 5 percent,
According to Lilly, the cost of Alimta varies depending up on
the patient's size but is about $4,000 per cycle wholesale.
When asked if oncologists would be likely to prescribe this
medication given the possibly prohibitive cost, Dr. Mark G. Kris,
moderator of the press conference and chief of the Thoracic
Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New
York City, said that he thought they would, at least for patients
in which the drug worked and was tolerable.
"The benefit would be worth the spending for people who get a benefit," he said.
Ready believes that doctors' willingness to use the drug will
ultimately depend on seeing the overall survival results which,
said Paz-Ares, "may be available in the near future."
The American Cancer Society reports that lung cancer is the
leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, killing
more people than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. The
chance that a man will develop lung cancer is about one in 13; for
a woman, about one in 16. While the estimates include both smokers
and non-smokers, for smokers the risk is much higher.
Research presented at medical meetings should be considered
preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on
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