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Tuesday April 16, 2024

Lung cancer deaths fall dramatically with AstraZeneca pills

Drug is already approved in 100 countries including US and has proved to be effective in preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of the body

By Web Desk
June 06, 2023
AstraZeneca Headquarters. — AFP/File
AstraZeneca Headquarters. — AFP/File

Fresh clinical results suggest that AstraZeneca's once-daily pill decreased deaths by half among a group of early-stage lung cancer patients who had received surgery.

The research results were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago and were also published at the same time in the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to Dr Roy Herbst, the trial's primary investigator and deputy director at Yale Cancer Centre, the information is the first to demonstrate how a tailored treatment for early-stage lung cancer affects survival.

The medication, known as osimertinib and marketed as Tagrisso, targets a particular receptor that promotes the growth of cancer cells.

“I think we’re curing some patients," Herbst said. "We’re really showing progress in lung cancer like never before.”

The trial results were "about twice as good as we expected," Herbst added.

In an international study of 682 lung cancer patients, roughly half of the participants were given the daily pill for three years, while the other half received a placebo, the report said.

Five years after their diagnosis, 88% of those who took the pill were still alive, compared with 78% of the placebo group, the report added.

The study was funded by AstraZeneca and included people from more than 20 countries across the US, Europe, South America, Asia, and the Middle East, NBC reported.

The drug reduces lung cancer risk by 51%, following an initial aim for a 50% reduction over 25 years by the Biden administration.

“At least in this one area, we’ve hit the mark,” Herbst said.

Tagrisso is already approved in more than 100 countries, including the US, and has been shown to be effective in keeping tumours from coming back and preventing cancer from spreading to the brain, liver, and bones.

It also works as an "off" switch for an EGFR mutation, which is more common in people with little to no smoking history.

The new survival data from Tagrisso could encourage more doctors to prescribe the drug and prompt wider insurance coverage.

Annual lung cancer screenings are recommended for certain adults with a history of smoking, which can be a challenge, according to Forde.

"Only about 5% of patients are being appropriately screened, and that’s in contrast to things like breast cancer mammograms or cervical screening," Forde said.