For persons who experience a relapse after receiving platinum-based chemotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer, improved second-line chemotherapy drugs are needed. According to a report in the January 2000 issue of the

Journal of Clinical Oncology, the chemotherapy agent docetaxel may offer a new option for these patients.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a term used to describe at least 3 types of lung cancer—epidermoid or squamous carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. NSCLC may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy. When chemotherapy is needed, a therapy containing platinum (cisplatin or carboplatin) is usually used to increase survival time and relieve symptoms. However, because few drugs are effective against NSCLC that does not respond to platinum, treatment options are limited for persons experiencing a relapse after this type of chemotherapy. A relatively new class of drugs called the taxanes (including paclitaxel and docetaxel) may prove beneficial, having produced responses in 3 to 23% of patients with NSCLC for whom platinum-based therapy has failed.

Researchers from several medical centers provided treatment with docetaxel to a total of 80 patients who had NSCLC and who were previously treated with platinum-based chemotherapy. These patients received an average of 4 cycles of intravenous docetaxel. Findings showed a partial response to treatment in 16% of patients, an average survival time of 7 months, and a 1-year survival rate of 25%. Docetaxel was relatively well tolerated, with the most common side effect being low blood counts.

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The researchers concluded that docetaxel provides anti-cancer activity against NSCLC after treatment with platinum, and may offer hope for improved survival to patients with this disease. Future clinical studies will combine other anti-cancer therapies with docetaxel to see if further improvements in patient outcomes can be attained. (Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 18, No 1, pp 131-135, 2000)

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