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ASTRO 2017: Combination Therapy for Lung Cancer

Phase 2 clinical trial shows dramatically improved outcomes for people suffering from advanced-stage non-small cell lung cancer.

By
Jason Socrates Bardi, Editor-in-Chief
Friday, September 29, 2017

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SAN DIEGO -- Combining radiation therapy with chemotherapy may dramatically improve outcomes for people suffering from certain types of advanced-stage lung cancer, according to the results of a new, randomized phase 2 clinical trial reported this week.

Lung cancer claims the most cancer-specific deaths of any tumor type, and more than 155,526 people died in 2014 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For people with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, the standard treatment has been to give systemic chemotherapy, and the new study was designed to see whether the addition of local radiation therapy focused on the metastases would help prolong survival.

The trial, led by doctors at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, began in April 2014 and enrolled 29 people who were median age of 70 and suffered from stage IV non-small lung cancer with limited metastasis. The doctors randomly assigned them to receive either chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy in combination with stereotactic ablative radiotherapy.

The preliminary results were promising enough that when they first became available last summer, the doctors stopped accruing patients for the trial ahead of schedule. Announced this week at the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) meeting in San Diego, the data showed that the combination therapy improved progression-free survival from 3.5 months to 9.7 months without adding significant side-effects.

This result supports two other ongoing phase 3 clinical trials that are investigating the same question in the same population, said Brian Czito, a radiation oncologist at Duke University who was not involved in the research but moderated a press conference this week at which the new results were first announced.

"In properly selected patients, these studies have the potential to change how we approach patients who have historically been treated with just drug therapy alone," Czito said.

The integration of local therapy, he added, "has the potential to establish a new treatment paradigm."