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The results of a recent study published in Lung Cancer indicate that Gemzar® (gemcitabine) is a safe and effective treatment option for physically unfit patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and Europe. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer and is a malignancy that arises from the tissues of the lung. Under most circumstances, NSCLC is not curable. Current treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Treatment with chemotherapy often extends over a period of weeks or months and can be associated with side effects that may be particularly difficult for an elderly or physically unfit patient to tolerate. The elderly are commonly treated with chemotherapy, which has been shown to improve survival; however, less is known about treating patients who are physically de-conditioned or unfit.

This recent phase II trial involved 45 patients below the age of 76 who had been diagnosed with inoperable or recurrent NSCLC. None of the patients had previously received chemotherapy and all were considered medically unfit. Gemzar® was administered weekly for 3 weeks each month, every 28 days. Treatment was continued until disease progression, unresolved toxicity occurred or the patient refused further treatment. The average number of chemotherapy cycles was 9, although the dosage of Gemzar® was reduced slightly in some cases. Overall, the average time to progression was 17 weeks and average survival time was 35 weeks. Of the patients evaluated for disease response, 4 had a partial response and another 6 patients had some disease regression. Toxicity was minimal and mainly included decreased blood counts.

The researchers concluded that weekly Gemzar® was a safe and effective option for medically unfit patients with NSCLC. Patients may wish to speak to their physician about treatment options available to them.

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Reference: Ferigno D, Buccheri G. Front-line weekly chemotherapy with gemcitabine for unfit patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Lung Cancer. 2004; 45: 373-380.

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