Iressa® & Taxotere® Provide Same Survival in Recurrent Non-Small Cell Cancer

Cancer Connect

According to results presented at the 2007 annual International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), Iressa® (gefitinib) may provide equal outcomes with an improved quality of life compared to Taxotere® (docetaxel) for the treatment of recurrent nonsmall cell lung cancer among patients who have received one prior treatment regimen.

Lung cancer remains the greatest cause of cancer-related deaths in the world. In the United States, it causes more deaths than breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer combined. Nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC) comprises approximately 75% of all lung cancers; nonsmall cell refers to the type of cell within the lung where the cancer originated.

Recurrent NSCLC refers to cancer that has returned or progressed following prior therapy. Often, patients with recurrent NSCLC are treated with chemotherapy. However, chemotherapy is often difficult to tolerate. Another approach to treatment utilizes agents targeted specifically against cancer cells; these targeted agents may have fewer side effects.

Iressa is an agent that is targeted specifically against the human epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). EGFR is a protein that is found on the surface of cells and is involved in cellular growth, spread, and replication. Cancerous cells often overexpress EGFR or have mutations within EGFR, leading to uncontrolled growth or spread of the cancer cells. Iressa binds to EGFR and halts or reduces its effects on cancer cells.

Researchers recently conducted a Phase III clinical trial (phase prior to FDA review) to compare Iressa with Taxotere in the treatment of recurrent NSCLC. This trial included 1,466 patients from 24 countries. All patients had received one or two prior chemotherapy regimens, which had to include a platinum-containing regimen (regimen containing the chemotherapy agents Platinol or Paraplatin). Patients were treated with either Iressa or Taxotere.

  • Anticancer responses were achieved in 9.1% of patients treated with Iressa and 7.6% of patients treated with Taxotere.
  • Median overall survival was approximately eight months for both groups of patients; survival at one year was approximately 3235% for both groups of patients.
  • The group of patients that had received two prior chemotherapy regimens, however, had improved survival with Taxotere compared with Iressa.
  • Quality-of-life measures were significantly higher among patients treated with Iressa than among those treated with Taxotere (25.1% versus 14.7%, respectively).

The researchers concluded that patients with NSCLC who have received one prior chemotherapy regimen including a platinum agent appear to achieve equal outcomes when treated with Iressa as when treated with Taxotere. However, Iressa provides better quality of life.

Patients with recurrent NSCLC may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating Iressa or other novel therapeutic agents. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute ( and

Reference: Douillard J, et al. Gefitinib (Iressa) versus Docetaxel in Patients with Locally Advanced or Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Pretreated with Platinum-Based Chemotherapy: a Randomized, Open-Label, Phase II Study (INTEREST). Proceedings from the 2007 annual International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASCLC) meeting. Oral Presentation.

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