According to results presented at the eleventh World Conference on Lung Cancer, the targeted agent Zactima™ (ZD6474), which is still in clinical trials, improves time to cancer progression when used in conjunction with the chemotherapy agent Taxotere® (docetaxel) more effectively than Taxotere alone in recurrent non-small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and is responsible for more deaths annually than breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for approximately 75 to 80 percent of all lung cancers. Lung cancers are categorized according to the type of cell within the lung where cancer originated and the extent of spread of the cancer from the site of origin (stage). Recurrent NSCLC refers to cancer that has returned or progressed following prior therapy; this stage of cancer has dismal long-term outcomes with standard treatment choices.

Newer research is focused on targeted therapy-agents designed to target specific components within a cell or biologic pathway. This allows treatment to target cancer cells or pathways, while minimizing effects of treatment on healthy tissues and reducing side effects. The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) pathways are biological pathways that involve cellular growth and spread. Since these specific pathways are thought to play an important role in the growth and spread of cancer, they have become subjects of recent targeted therapies. Although there are approved agents that target either EGFR or VEGFR, no agents that target both pathways at the same time are currently approved. Zactima is an agent in the later phases of clinical trials that has been designed to target both EGFR and VEGFR so that these pathways can be shutdown and prevent or reduce the spread of cancer cells.

Researchers recently conducted a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of Zactima in addition to Taxotere, a commonly used chemotherapy agent for recurrent NSCLC. This trial included patients who had received prior therapies and were treated with either a combination of Zactima plus Taxotere, or Taxotere alone. Patients treated with the combination of Zactima/Taxotere had an improved time to cancer progression of nearly 19 weeks, while those treated with Taxotere alone had a time to progression of 12 weeks. Side effects attributable to Zactima were rash and diarrhea.

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The researchers concluded that the addition of Zactima to Taxotere improves time to cancer progression compared to Taxotere alone in patients with recurrent NSCLC. The last phase of clinical trials evaluating Zactima prior to FDA approval will be initiated in the fall. Longer follow-up may reveal overall survival differences and future clinical trials may reveal more benefit with Zactima in earlier stages of NSCLC. Patients with recurrent NSCLC may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating Zactima or other novel therapeutic approaches. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) and www.cancerconsultants.com.

Reference: AstraZeneca. New Phase II Data For AstraZeneca Compound ZACTIMA™ (ZD6474) Presented At The World Conference On Lung Cancer – Phase III Trials To Begin In The Fall. Available at: . Accessed July 2005.

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