CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte cancer institution played a prominent role in a new cancer research study which shows a new pill could help patients with advanced-stage lung cancer.
The study, released Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed the results of a molecular-targeted therapy called AZD9291.
Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Cancer Institute played a prominent role in research.
The study takes a look at non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.
"Historically, treatments were limited to chemotherapy or radiation therapy if surgery cannot be performed," health officials said Thursday. "With advances in molecular testing and through clinical trials, oncologists are finding new targeted therapies that work very well for some patients with much less toxicity."
The drug, AZD9291, targets a specific gene mutation.
Researchers say 84% of the patients enrolled in the study, who had developed a resistance to previous medication, experienced "tumor shrinkage or stability with manageable side effects."
"We are seeing amazing results with this treatment. Patients are living longer, with an improved quality of life compared to traditional chemotherapy, and the side effects of AZD9291 are very manageable," said Dr. Haggstrom, principal investigator of the study at Levine Cancer Institute.
"It is an exciting time in cancer care and, in particular, lung cancer. Through research and clinical trials, we are tailoring our therapies to improve outcomes and limit adverse side effects."
According to researchers, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a protein on the surface of both cancer cells and normal cells.
In some cancer cells, this receptor develops a mutation which sparks uncontrolled cell division and growth of cancer.
Researchers say nearly 10-15% of lung cancer patients in the U.S. have tumors with EGFR mutations and say the molecularly targeted oral therapy is a preferred first treatment option.
"Unfortunately, these patients with EGFR- driven lung cancer eventually develop resistance to first line treatment, which previously meant revisiting non-targeted therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy," health officials said.
"In nearly half of the patients who develop this resistance, a specific genetic mutation, T790m, is responsible," they continued. "AZD9291 directly targets this pathway resulting in a reduction in the size and growth of the non-small cell lung cancer, and secondary to its efficacy in this population received 'breakthrough' status by the FDA for extending progression-free survival."