According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, treatment with the experimental chemotherapy drug amrubicin reduced or eliminated detectable cancer in roughly half of patients with previously-treated small cell lung cancer.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) comprises approximately 25% of all lung cancers in the United States. “Small cell “refers to the type of cell within the lung where the cancer originated.

SCLC is an aggressive form of cancer. With current treatment options, long-term survival for this disease remains suboptimal. Researchers continue to evaluate novel therapeutic approaches to improve outcomes for these patients.

Researchers in Japan recently conducted a phase II clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of an experimental chemotherapy drug-amrubicin-in patients with relapsed or refractory SCLC. Refractory SCLC was defined as cancer that worsened during or within 60 days of the completion of the initial chemotherapy treatment. Relapsed SCLC was defined as cancer that returned or worsened more than 60 days after the completion of the initial chemotherapy treatment.

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All patients were treated with amrubicin every three weeks for up to four cycles.

  • Two of the 60 patients (3%) experienced a complete disappearance of detectable cancer following treatment.
  • 29 patients (48%) experienced a partial disappearance of detectable cancer following treatment.
  • Response rates were similar among patients with relapsed or refractory SCLC. 50% of patients with refractory SCLC experienced a complete or partial disappearance of detectable cancer following treatment, compared to 52% of patients with relapsed SCLC.
  • One-year survival was 40% in the patients with refractory SCLC and 46% in patients with relapsed SCLC.
  • The most frequent serious adverse effect of treatment was neutropenia (a low white blood cell count). Grade 3 or grade 4 neutropenia was experienced by 83% of patients.

The researchers conclude that amrubicin shows promising activity in the treatment of relapsed or refractory SCLC. They note that additional studies of this agent are warranted.

Reference: Onoda S, Masuda N, Seto T et al. Phase II Trial of Amrubicin for Treatment of Refractory or Relapsed Small-cell Lung Cancer: Thoracic Oncology Research Group Study 0301. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2006;24:5448-5453.

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