Study bolsters hope for lung cancer pill

By Associated Press
June 6, 2011

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TRENTON, N.J. — A much-anticipated drug for advanced lung cancer from Pfizer Inc. appears to double survival over standard drugs against tumors with a certain genetic mutation, according to research presented yesterday.

The drug, called crizotinib, would be the first targeted treatment for the roughly 50,000 people who get this cancer each year worldwide. It might eventually produce annual revenue for Pfizer exceeding $2 billion.

The first overall survival data for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer treated with the drug showed 74 percent were still alive after a year and 54 percent after two years, researchers announced.

The twice-a-day pill targets the roughly 4 percent of non-small cell lung cancer patients whose tumors have a genetic rearrangement of an enzyme that stimulates growth and survival of those cancer cells.

The experimental drug works by turning off that enzyme, with a rapid and dramatic effect that is long-lasting, said lead researcher Dr. Alice Shaw, a Mass. General oncologist.