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Lung cancer patients who took experimental drugs combo lived longer


Close up of female doctor pointing at abstract glowing lung interface with virus outline on blurry background. Medicine, pandemic and healthcare concept. Double exposure
(Golden Dayz via Shutterstock)

By Danny Halpin via SWNS

Lung cancer patients who took an experimental combination of drugs lived three months longer on average than those on standard medication, a new study revealed.

Combining pembrolizumab and ramucirumab reduced the risk of death by 31 percent for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, say scientists.

Pembrolizumab is a type of immunotherapy drug known as an immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) and ramucirumab blocks a particular enzyme which is needed to form blood vessels. This type of drug is known as a vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2).

Doctors use the drugs as part of chemotherapy as it has been shown to be the most effective way of treating lung cancer.

Around 25 percent of UK patients diagnosed with the disease are treated using chemotherapy.

It is the most common type of cancer in the UK and kills 34,800 people every year.

The phase 2 study was part of the Lung Cancer Master Protocol (Lung-MAP), the first lung cancer precision medical trial, and was carried out within the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) and the Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), both part of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

It enrolled 136 eligible patients with stage four or recurrent non-small cell lung cancer.

These patients have all been treated with ICIs and in all cases, patients’ tumors eventually became resistant to the drugs and grew or spread prior to the patient joining the trial.

Results of the study, known as S1800A, were presented by Dr. Karen Reckamp at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago.

Reckamp, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center said: “This is the first trial to show a survival benefit with ICI and VEGFR inhibition for patients with advanced lung cancer who have experienced tumor progression on prior ICI.”

The trial’s primary goal was to improve the overall survival of the patients, while secondary goals were to see how many patients responded positively to the treatment and how long they continued to live without the tumor getting worse.

Researchers found there were no significant differences between the two courses of drugs in relation to the secondary goals but they found that overall, patients on the experiment course of combined drugs lived three months longer on average than those on the standard course.

There was also a smaller percentage of people suffering adverse side effects on those who took the combination compared with those who didn’t, 42 percent and 60 percent respectively.

Reckamp added: “These results represent a potential paradigm-changing regimen in a setting where limited options exist.

“A phase 3 trial of the combination is warranted to better evaluate the impact.”

Treatment for those on the standard course was chosen by the physician and patient from among a set of four standard chemotherapy courses: docetaxel plus ramucirumab, docetaxel alone, gemcitabine, or pemetrexed.

About two-thirds of patients on standard therapy received docetaxel and ramucirumab, the most active therapy of this type.

The researchers noted that because of the small sample size, the results can’t be seen as definitive and recommended the experimental combination be studied in a larger trial.

But Dr. Roy Herbst, deputy director of Yale Cancer Center and founder of Lung-MAP, praised the study’s diverse population and the NCI’s support for Lung-MAP.

He said: “The unique nature of the public-private partnership of Lung-MAP, supported by the expansive and diverse nature of the NCI’s NCTN and NCORP, allowed us to bring these new therapies to patients with advanced lung cancer nationwide at no cost to patients – an important improvement in patient access.”

The findings of the study have also been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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