Persons with advanced non-small cell lung cancer are often treated with chemotherapy to alleviate the symptoms of their disease and prolong survival time. Over the past several years, chemotherapy has commonly consisted of a 2 drug combination containing a platinum-containing compound (cisplatin or carboplatin), combined with a second chemotherapy compound. According to a report presented by researchers at the May 2000 American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, the addition of Gemzar® chemotherapy to the 2 drug combination regimen of paclitaxel/carboplatin may improve survival.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a term used to describe several types of lung cancer, including epidermoid or squamous carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, and undifferentiated carcinoma.

Stage IIIB NSCLC is cancer that began in the lung and then spread to the chest wall, diaphragm, and/or lymph nodes in the chest or neck.

Stage IV NSCLC is cancer that originated in the lung and then spread to other parts of the body. Persons with stages IIIB and IV NSCLC are often said to have advanced disease. Treatment for advanced NSCLC currently consists of combination chemotherapy. Researchers continue to develop and study new drug combinations in an effort to provide persons with advanced NSCLC with treatment options that are more effective and/or have more tolerable side effects.

Although standard combination chemotherapy treatment for Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) consists of 2 chemotherapy agents, several investigators have focused on adding a third anti-cancer agent into a treatment regimen, with the goal of improving the overall efficacy of the treatment. Recently, physicians compared 88 newly diagnosed patients with NSCLC, treated with a combination of carboplatin and paclitaxel, a standard chemotherapy treatment of NSCLC to carboplatin and paclitaxel, and a third active agent, Gemzar®.

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Patients treated with the 3 drug combination had a significantly higher response rate, with 59% responding to treatment compared to only 30% of patients treated with the 2 drug regimen. The estimated average survival of patients treated with Gemzar® added to the standard 2 drug regimen was 12.4 months compared to only 7.6 months for patients treated with the paclitaxel and carboplatin combination.

The addition of Gemzar® modestly increased side effects. In summary, this small clinical trial suggests that the addition of Gemzar® to a standard regimen of carboplatin and paclitaxel may be capable of producing improved response rates and prolonging survival with a modest increase in side effects. Larger confirmatory clinical trials will be necessary to confirm the benefit of this 3 drug regimen.

More effective treatment options are still needed for advanced NSCLC. Individuals who have advanced NSCLC may wish to talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial in which promising new treatments are being studied. Two sources of information on ongoing clinical trials include clinical trials listing services provided by the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) and eCancerTrials.com. eCancerTrials.com also performs personalized clinical trial searches on behalf of patients.

(Proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Thirty-Sixth Annual Meeting, Vol 19, Abstract 2, p 1a, 2000)

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