Those who have followed my writings over time will know that I haven’t been inclined to adopt a reflexive strategy of ordering molecular testing without good evidence that having this information will improve outcomes. Testing tumors for EGFR mutations is advocated by a vocal minority of lung cancer experts in Boston and New York City, but this hasn’t been advocated by the broader lung cancer community yet, or adopted as routine clinical practice.
I think one of the most important lead stories from ASCO 2008 got buried. Nobody's really talking about it yet, but they should.
A couple of weeks ago I described in a prior post the design and general results of a trial coded as JMEN by the sponsor company, Eli Lilly. This study randomized patients to either maintenance/early second line alimta (pemetrexed) or a placebo after four cycles of initial platinum-based doublet chemo with a drug other than alimta.
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.
Although I've previously written about the question about optimal duration of therapy for first-line chemotherapy in advanced NSCLC (post here), these conclusions have been based on a limited number of trials. One study randomized patients to three or six cycles of rather old chemo and found no significant differences (abstract here).
Iressa was approved by the US FDA in May of 2003 as a third-line therapy, and for the next 18 months it was the only EGFR inhibitor on the market.
I haven’t really covered the history or issues of directly comparing the two oral inhibitors of the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR, which are Iressa (gefitinib) and Tarceva (erlotinib). This is really because over the last few years, gefitinib has had disappointing results in some important trials and is no longer readily used or available, while the remarkably similar drug Tarceva has been approved by the US FDA and is a standard treatment for patients with advanced NSCLC that has previously been treated with chemotherapy.
Although we are all frustrated by the relatively slow pace of progress in lung cancer, there are times when we can look back and feel that we have made a real impact. Six years ago there were no treatments that were FDA approved and appeared to benefit patients who had previously been treated with first-line chemo for NSCLC. Now there are several.