Study reports first success of targeted therapy in type of non-small cell lung cancer

May 31, 2012

A novel compound has become the first targeted therapy to benefit patients with the most common genetic subtype of lung cancer, an international clinical trial led by scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and other institutions will report at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) June 1-5 in Chicago.

Pasi A. Jänne, MD, PhD, scientific co-director of Dana-Farber's Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science, will present the findings from the randomized phase II study (abstract 7503) on Monday, June 4, 3 p.m. CT, E Hall D2, McCormick Place.

The study involved 87 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors carry a mutation in the gene KRAS. Such tumors account for about 20 percent of NSCLC cases, but no targeted therapy has proved effective against them in previous clinical research. The drug under investigation, selumetinib, doesn't attack KRAS directly, but interferes with one of its molecular henchmen, a protein called MEK.

Participants in the study all had advanced stages of the disease. They received the standard chemotherapy agent docetaxel in combination with either selumetinib or a placebo.

By many measures – the rate and duration of response to treatment, change in tumor size, and proportion of patients alive and showing no signs of advancing disease -- the group receiving selumetinib did significantly better than the other group. Most clinically significant were the improved rate of response to treatment (37 percent compared to 0 percent in the placebo arm) and prolonged progression-free survival (5.3 months compared to 2.1 months in the placebo arm). Although patients in the selumetinib group survived longer, on average, than those in the placebo group – 9.4 months compared to 5.2 months – the improvement was not considered statistically significant.

"This clinical trial demonstrates that a combination of chemotherapy and selumetinib is significantly better than chemotherapy alone for this group of patients – better in terms of tumor response to therapy and in terms of survival times prior to advance of the disease," says Jänne. "It suggests that for the first time we may have an effective treatment for KRAS-mutant lung cancer, which is the largest single subtype of the disease. These impressive clinical findings not only have implications for the treatment of but all cancers that harbor KRAS mutations, including pancreatic and colorectal cancer."

Some side effects, such as neutropenia (a white blood cell deficiency), loss of strength, acne, and respiratory problems were more common in the selumetinib group than the other, but the rate of patients dropping out of the study because of severe side effects was similar for both groups.

Explore further: KRAS gene mutation and amplification status affects sensitivity to antifolate therapy

Related Stories

KRAS gene mutation and amplification status affects sensitivity to antifolate therapy

April 4, 2012
Testing patients with non-small cell lung cancer for both mutations and amplifications of the KRAS gene prior to therapy may help to predict response to treatment with antifolates, according to the updated results of a preclinical ...

Sorafenib effective in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, but low survival rates reported

January 10, 2012
Sorafenib was effective in patients with non-small cell lung cancer and a KRAS mutation, but survival rates were reportedly "unsatisfactory," according to data presented at the AACR-IASLC Joint Conference on Molecular Origins ...

Ganetespib showed activity in KRAS-mutant NSCLC as monotherapy and in combinations

January 11, 2012
The investigational drug ganetespib, a synthetic second-generation Hsp90 inhibitor, slowed the growth of cancer cells taken from non-small cell lung cancer tumors with a mutation in the KRAS gene. The drug was even more active ...

Recommended for you

Outdoor light at night linked with increased breast cancer risk in women

August 17, 2017
Women who live in areas with higher levels of outdoor light at night may be at higher risk for breast cancer than those living in areas with lower levels, according to a large long-term study from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Scientists develop novel immunotherapy technology for prostate cancer

August 17, 2017
A study led by scientists at The Wistar Institute describes a novel immunotherapeutic strategy for the treatment of cancer based on the use of synthetic DNA to directly encode protective antibodies against a cancer specific ...

Toxic formaldehyde is produced inside our own cells, scientists discover

August 16, 2017
New research has revealed that some of the toxin formaldehyde in our bodies does not come from our environment - it is a by-product of an essential reaction inside our own cells. This could provide new targets for developing ...

Cell cycle-blocking drugs can shrink tumors by enlisting immune system in attack on cancer

August 16, 2017
In the brief time that drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, doctors have made a startling observation: in certain patients, the drugs—designed to halt cancer ...

Researchers find 'switch' that turns on immune cells' tumor-killing ability

August 16, 2017
Molecular biologists led by Leonid Pobezinsky and his wife and research collaborator Elena Pobezinskaya at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have published results that for the first time show how a microRNA molecule ...

Popular immunotherapy target turns out to have a surprising buddy

August 16, 2017
The majority of current cancer immunotherapies focus on PD-L1. This well studied protein turns out to be controlled by a partner, CMTM6, a previously unexplored molecule that is now suddenly also a potential therapeutic target. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.