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According to a recent article published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, bestatin, an agent not yet approved in the United States appears to improve survival in patients with stage I squamous cell lung cancer.

Squamous cell lung cancer is a type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in which the cancer originates in specific cells within the lung called squamous cells. Stage I NSCLC refers to cancer that is confined to its site of origin. Surgery is the cornerstone of treatment for the management of stage I NSCLC for patients who have surgically removable cancers. Unfortunately, a significant portion of patients experience a cancer recurrence following surgery caused from undetectable cancer cells that remain in the body following surgery. Adjuvant therapy is the delivery of treatment following surgery in order to kill any remaining cancer cells in an attempt to reduce recurrences and improve survival. Clinical trials evaluating adjuvant therapies are currently ongoing.

Bestatin is a novel agent still in clinical trials that has demonstrated anti-cancer activity as well as stimulatory effects on the immune system. Researchers from Japan recently conducted a clinical trial to evaluate bestatin as adjuvant therapy in patients with stage I squamous cell lung cancer. This trial involved approximately 400 patients who had their cancer surgically removed. Patients were randomly selected to be treated with bestatin following surgery or placebo (inactive substitute) for 2 years following surgery and outcomes between the two groups of patients were directly compared. Five years following the initiation of treatment, overall survival was 81% for patients treated with bestatin, compared to 74% for patients who received placebo. Cancer-free survival at 5 years was 71% for patients treated with bestatin, compared to 62% for patients treated with placebo. Side effects were reportedly mild in both groups of patients.

The researchers concluded that bestatin may improve survival in patients with operable stage I squamous cell lung cancer and another large clinical trial is warranted in order to confirm these findings. Patients with stage I NSCLC may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating bestatin or other promising therapeutic approaches. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute ( and also provides personalized clinical trial searches on behalf of patients.

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Reference: Ichinose Y, Genka K, Koike T, et al. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of bestatin in patients with resected stage I squamous-cell lung carcinoma.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2003;95:605-610.

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