In yet another step toward personalized medicine, a new trial used biomarkers to target lung-cancer treatment--and got results. Despite all the talk about KRAS mutations and EGFR mutations, this is actually the first major trial to compare individualized lung cancer treatment with typical therapy.
Here's how it worked: Researchers took biopsies of the patients' tumors and looked for gene mutations. Then they used that information to choose among Roche/OSI Pharmaceuticals' Tarceva, Bayer/OnyxPharmaceuticals' Nexavar, AstraZeneca's Zactima, and Eisai Pharmaceuticals' Targretin. Among patients treated this way, 46 percent of tumors grew more slowly or shrank, compared with 30 percent in patients treated as usual, the study showed.
Perhaps most dramatic was the difference in Tarceva performance. Targeted for patients with EGFR mutations, Tarceva stopped 71 percent of tumors in their tracks. Less than half of that percentage (34 percent) of patients without a mutation saw similar results. By contrast, Nexavar appeared to perform well in both populations: 61 percent with the mutation, 56 percent without.
Experts said the study was too small to sweep existing treatment strategies aside. But it's a big move toward personalized treatment of lung cancer. "This is a first step to find biomarkers that may help supplant existing toxic therapies and to find the right populaton for a particular drug," lead author Edward Kim of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center tells the Wall Street Journal.