New Pill Approved to Treat Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women worldwide. The two types of lung cancer are the small cell lung cancers (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). NSCLC is the most common form of lung cancer, and occurs when cancer cells form in the lung tissues. Lung cancer treatments can involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Since doctors tend to not find the disease until it is at an advanced stage, the prognosis of lung cancer is poor. For early stage lung cancer the 5-year survival rate is 40%-50%; however, only 1%-5% in advanced lung cancer.
Due to its tumor response rate and duration of response, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently granted “accelerated” approval for the oral medication, Tagrisso, to treat certain patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. The FDA’s accelerated approval program allows patient access to promising new drugs while the company conducts confirmatory clinical trials, provided the drug is used to treat a serious or life-threatening disease based on clinical data.
The patients treated include those whose cancerous tumors have a “specific epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation (T790M)” (Medical News Today, Nov 16, 2015), and whose disease has not gotten better after treatment with other therapies. Clinical trials have shown that Tagrisso has a great impact on reducing the size of the cancerous tumor in more than 50% of the patients who were treated with the drug.
As with most drugs, there are some common side effects of Tagrisso. These include diarrhea, dry skin, rash, and nail toxicity. In addition, according to the FDA, Tagrisso may also cause severe side effects, including lung inflammation and heart damage.
Putting aside the side effects, the launch of Tagrisso is quite significant due to the number of deaths caused by lung cancer each year throughout the world.