(10/28/13) - A new treatment is helping some patients with lung cancer live
longer without chemotherapy. It is the leading cancer killer in both men and
In fact, more people die from lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. The common course of action is surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. But now, a new drug is helping people with lung cancer live longer without the harmful side effects of chemo.
"I'm active, a non-smoker, healthy," Justin Perry says, despite all that, doctors diagnosed him with late stage lung cancer.
Justin thought he would be facing chemotherapy, but when doctors tested his lung cancer tissue, they realized he was among three-percent of patients with an abnormal alk gene.
"A genetic alteration happens because a piece of chromosome has switched over on to its side," says Dr. Pasi Janne of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
That alteration made Justin a candidate for a targeted drug therapy trial. Instead of chemotherapy at the hospital, Justin took the more targeted therapy- alk inhibitor pills- at home.
"It doesn't make you lose your hair; it doesn't make you lose weight," Dr. Janne says.
Studies show that people with the alk mutation may have a response rate of over 50 percent, compared to 10 percent with chemo.
Justin says taking four to five pills a day outweighs daily, or even weekly, chemo treatments, "the first week I was already noticing a difference."
In just two months, the alk inhibitor has shrunk most of the tumors in Justin's lungs.
Targeted therapies, called inhibitors, are the focus of a huge percentage of cancer research right now, because a lot of experts believe that, eventually, in most patients, the cancer could figure out a way around the alk inhibitors and come back.
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