An interesting trial presented at ASCO 2008 came out of Japan, asking the question of whether there is an advantage to continuing first line platinum-based doublet chemo for up to six cycles or whether it might be better to give just three cycles and then switch from chemo right to the EGFR inhibitor iressa in Japanese patients with advanced NSCLC (abstract here).
The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress, similar to ASCO but based in Europe, has been going on in Stockholm, where the results of a study called the First Line Iressa versus Carboplatin/Paclitaxel in Asia Study (taking some liberties to force it into the acronym "IPASS") was presented in the Presidential Symposium by my friend and Hong Kong-based colleague Tony Mok.
One of my earliest posts when I started OncTalk was on the use of oral inhibitors of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), one of the growth signals that is often over-active in cancer cells, against advanced bronchioloalveolar carcinoma (BAC), a unique subtype of lung cancer that tends to grow within the lungs, sometimes slowly, and not progress elsewhere.
One of the initial appeals of targeted therapies like tarceva (erlotinib) was that they may have fewer side effects and emerge as an alternative to standard chemo for some people. And one of the most appealing areas for offering a good alternative to standard chemo has been in the setting of older patients, who may be more wary of side effects and/or have additional medical problems than younger patients.
Within the lung cancer community, the biggest story from the ASCO meeting was the long-awaited plenary session presentation (abstract here) of the FLEX trial of chemo with or without the EGFR monoclonal antibody Erbitux (cetuximab) that we knew was statistically significantly positive for an overall survival benefit as far back as September of last year (see
As I've described in a prior post, there is some evidence that patients who develop a rash on tarceva (erlotinib) have an improved survival compared to patients who experience no skin toxicity on tarceva. The key question is whether this is an issue of under-dosing some patients, or if it's just a correlate of overall immune function or constitution in a person, in which case increasing the dose won't improve the outcome.
In a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Dr. Vince Miller and colleagues published the results of an important trial of the EGFR inhibitor tarceva (erlotinib) in the unusual NSCLC subtype bronchioloalveolar carcinoma, or BAC (abstract here). This work was predicated on the observation, also by Dr.
Member Sandra recently asked the question that several other people have asked in one form or another: how do we choose among the treatment options for second line therapy in NSCLC. I've covered in several posts and a huge number of responses in the Q&A Forum the leading options we generally consider for second line therapy for NSCLC.
In a post several months ago, I described the results of a trial from Japan, designated V-15-32, that directly compared Iressa to Taxotere as a second line therapy. Although overall comparable, the study showed that Japanese patients receiving Iressa had a higher response rate, but despite that had a lower median and one year survival.
The study I was just discussing, the French trial of Iressa at 250 mg daily for advanced BAC (abstract here), provided interesting clinical information, especially when viewed in the context of previous work on EGFR inhibitors in BAC.