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Highlights of the 2011 World Conference on Lung Cancer

Hosted by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer


Photo by Cancer Type

The 14th World Conference on Lung Cancer, hosted by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), was held in Amsterdam, Netherlands from 3 – 7 July 2011. The program drew together many lung cancer specialists from a wide range of disciplines from all over the world. More than 7,000 participants from over 100 countries joined this unique scientific event. The World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC), hosted every two years by the IASLC, is the world's largest meeting dedicated to lung cancer and thoracic malignancies.

EGFR-Targeted Drug Effective for Some People with Lung Cancer
People with advanced non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors have specific mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor gene lived longer without their disease progressing when treated with the drug erlotinib (Tarceva®) than people who received chemotherapy alone, according to results from a phase III trial.

Other trials have also shown that people whose tumors have EGFR mutations have better outcomes when treated with an EGFR-targeted agent such as erlotinib or gefitinib (Iressa™), which are both tyrosine kinase inhibitors. However, those trials included only Asian participants, and only one trial to date limited enrollment to participants whose tumors had EGFR mutations. The EURTAC trial was the first to enroll people from Western countries (primarily Europe) with advanced non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors had EGFR mutations, explained lead investigator Dr. Radj Gervais of Centre François Baclesse in France.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive, as their initial treatment, either erlotinib or a chemotherapy regimen containing a platinum drug until their disease progressed. Those treated with erlotinib lived a median of 9.7 months without their disease progressing, compared with 5.2 months for those treated with chemotherapy. There was also a very high response rate in the participants treated with erlotinib, Dr. Gervais reported, with 58 percent experiencing substantial tumor shrinkage, compared with only 15 percent of those who received chemotherapy.

As early as the end of the year, Astellas Pharma expects to submit an application to the FDA seeking approval for erlotinib as a first-line treatment in people with non-small cell lung cancer who have EGFR mutations.

High EGFR Expression a Predictor for Improved Survival with Cetuximab Plus Chemotherapy
High epidermal growth factor receptor expression was a good predictor of which people with lung cancer would survive longer when cetuximab (Erbitux®) was added to first-line chemotherapy, according to new research.

Based on a new analysis of all FLEX participants, researchers found that those with high tumor EGFR expression consistently benefited from the addition of cetuximab to chemotherapy, regardless of histology. Within this group, overall survival averaged 12 months, compared with 9.6 months for those receiving chemotherapy alone. In people with low EGFR expression, no difference in overall survival was seen between those receiving chemotherapy plus cetuximab, compared to those receiving chemotherapy alone.

“The new analysis of the phase III FLEX study has allowed us to identify which non-small cell lung cancer patients are most likely to benefit from treatment with Erbitux in the first-line setting,” said principal investigator Dr. Robert Pirker of the Medical University of Vienna in Austria. “By demonstrating that high EGFR expression is the first predictive biomarker for improved overall survival in advanced non-small cell lung cancer, we have taken a major step towards a more personalized approach in this difficult-to-treat disease.”

People with Cancer Who Get Blood Clots Gain No Benefit from Adding IVCF to Fondaparinux
People with cancer who get blood clots – which occur in one of every 200 people with cancer – gain no benefit from the insertion of an inferior vena cava filter to the anticoagulant medication fondaparinux (Arixtra®), according to new research.

The inferior vena cava is a large blood vessel in the abdomen that carries blood from the lower parts of the body back to the heart. A thin-mesh IVC filter can be placed in the inferior vena cava to prevent blood clots from reaching the heart. The study suggests that there is no benefit from costly and invasive IVCF placement in people who are receiving fondaparinux.

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This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2011.