According to an article recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, treatment with single-agent Taxotere® (docetaxel) provides superior progression-free survival and improves symptoms caused by cancer better than treatment with single-agent Navelbine® (vinorelbine) for elderly patients with non–small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common form of lung cancer; “non–small cell” refers to the type of cell within the lung where the cancer originated.

Advanced NSCLC refers to cancer that has spread from the lung to distant sites in the body. Treatment for advanced NSCLC is aimed at extending patients’ duration of survival and improving their quality of life. However, treatment is often not aimed at a cure. Elderly patients often suffer from other existing medical conditions and may not be able to tolerate aggressive therapies. Therefore, elderly patients with advanced NSCLC are often treated with a single agent of chemotherapy.

Researchers from Japan recently conducted a phase III clinical trial (phase prior to FDA review) to directly compare single-agent Taxotere to single-agent Navelbine in the treatment of elderly patients with advanced NSCLC.

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This trial included 182 patients who were aged 70 years or older and had not received prior chemotherapy. Patients were treated with either Taxotere or Navelbine and were directly compared.

  • Progression-free survival was approximately 5.5 months for patients treated with Taxotere, compared with 3.1 months for those treated with Navelbine.
  • Treatment with Taxotere significantly improved symptoms related to the cancer compared to treatment with Navelbine.
  • Overall survival was not considered significantly different between the two treatment regimens.

The researchers concluded that treatment with Taxotere may provide an alternative approach to treatment of elderly patients with advanced NSCLC. Patients with advanced NSCLC may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participation in a clinical trial further evaluating Taxotere or novel treatment approaches. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) and www.cancerconsultants.com.

Reference: Kudoh S, Takeda K, Nakagawa K, et al. Phase III Study of Docetaxel Compared With Vinorelbine in Elderly Patients With Advanced Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer: Results of the West Japan Thoracic Oncology Group Trial (WJTOG 9904). Journal of Clinical Oncology . 2006; 24: 3657-3663.

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