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A novel agent, OSI-774, has shown promise in extending survival in patients with recurrent non-small cell lung cancer, as recently reported at the 37th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Approximately 75% of individuals who have lung cancer have a type of cancer referred to as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). There are actually many different types of lung cancer that are considered to be NSCLC and are named according to the type of cell within the lung that the cancer originated. These include epidermoid or squamous carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma and undifferentiated carcinoma. Treatment options depend on the extent of spread of the cancer in the body, and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and/or biologic therapy (treatment utilizing the immune system to fight cancer). Advanced stage cancer refers to the spread of cancer from its site of origin to distant sites in the body. Although the majority of patients with advanced NSCLC respond to initial treatment, most will ultimately experience a cancer recurrence for which there is a poor prognosis. Research efforts are aimed at novel therapies for patients with this disease.

Epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) are small proteins that are found on the surface of all cells. EGFR binds exclusively to small proteins circulating in the blood called growth factors. The binding action between EGFR and growth factors stimulates biological processes within the cell to promote growth of a cell in a strictly controlled manner. However, in many cancer cells, EGFR is either abundantly overexpressed or the EGFR biological processes that normally stimulate cell growth are constantly active, leading to the uncontrolled and excessive growth of the cancer cell.

OSI-774 is a novel therapeutic agent aimed at blocking the EGFR pathway. OSI-774 halts excessive cellular growth by inhibiting the EGFR process within a cell. Clinical trials are currently underway evaluating OSI-774 in a variety of cancers. Researchers from the New York University School of Medicine-Kaplan Comprehensive Cancer Center recently conducted a clinical trial evaluating OSI-774 in 57 patients with advanced, recurrent NSCLC. One year following treatment, nearly 50% of patients were still alive. One patient achieved a complete disappearance of cancer, 8 achieved a reduction of their cancer and 15 achieved a stabilization in their disease. Treatment was well-tolerated by patients in this trial.

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These results are encouraging as patients with advanced, recurrent NSCLC have a poor prognosis following standard therapies. Future clinical trials will evaluate OSI-774 earlier in the course of the disease and/or in combination with other therapies to derive optimal long-term benefits. Patients with NSCLC may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating OSI-774 or other promising therapies. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include comprehensive, easy-to-use listing services provided by the National Cancer Institute ( and also provides personalized clinical trial searches on behalf of patients.

(Proceedings from the 37th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, abstract # 1235, San Francisco, CA, May, 2001)

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