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Therapy blocks aggressive lung cancer for two years

A new targeted therapy stops for more than two years the progression of an aggressive form of lung cancer, nearly three times longer than the current reference treatment, according to the results of a clinical trial published Monday.

Alecensa (alectinib), of the Swiss laboratories Roche, blocked 15 months longer the proliferation of this non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with the genetic mutation ALK, which the Xalkori (crizotinib) of the American competitor Pfizer, The data from this study conducted with 303 patients.

"No one would have thought possible to delay the progression of advanced lung cancer for such a long time because for most targeted therapies for lung tumors we stop the progression of the tumor around twelve months," she said. Dr. Alice Shaw, Director of the Department of Thoracic Cancer at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

She conducted this 3 clinical trial and presented the results at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world's largest cancer symposium held in Chicago since Friday.

These two molecules, Alecensa and Xalkori, target the mutation of the ALK gene, which affects about 5% of all people with lung cancer NSCLC and boosts the proliferation of cancer cells.

Some 12.500 cases are diagnosed annually in the US and 140.000 worldwide, according to the ASCO.

"The fact that this second generation targeted therapy stops the progression of advanced lung cancer for more than two years while preventing metastasis in the brain is a remarkable result against this challenging disease," said Dr. John Heymach , A professor of medicine at head and neck oncology at the Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, who did not participate in the clinical study.

"Thanks to this advance we are on the way to help these patients to live longer and better," he added at a press conference on Monday.

Alecensa is currently authorized only for patients with ALK-positive lung cancer whose condition has worsened despite treatment with Xalkori, the initial therapy of current choice.

This last clinical trial showed that Alecensa reduced the risk of progression or death of 53% compared to Xalkori since patients experience 25,7 months (median value) after diagnosis, against 10,4 months with Xalkori.

These researchers also found that there was significantly less brain metastasis with Alecensa (9% of patients) than with Xalkori (41% of the patients).

Severe side effects (fatigue, constipation and muscle pain) were observed in 41% of participants in the study treated with Alecensa versus 50% in the Xalkori group.

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