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Targeted agents may improve outcomes for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to studies presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

In one significant study presented at the meeting, researchersshowed that crizotinib, a noveltargeted therapy, can shrink tumors in about 90% of patients with advanced disease. Patients had a 72% chance of being progression-free at 6 months after starting the therapy, given orally at 250 mg twice a day. Additionally, the majority of patients experienced tumor shrinkage by more than 30%, and some saw their cancers disappear. In a second study involving 670 patients with stage IIIB or IV disease, the targeted agent, erlotinib (Tarceva), was used to treat older patients with advanced NSCLC. Researchers found that erlotinib prolonged survival in women with the disease but not in men with the disease. According to Siow Ming Lee, MD, PhD, of the University College London Cancer Institute, erlotinib prolonged survival by 26% in older women, but male patients participating in the study saw no benefit.

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Results from a third study found that the addition of vandetanib (Zactima) to docetaxel resulted in only a slight benefit for patients with advanced NSCLC that had progressed following first-line chemotherapy. According to findings published in Lancet Oncology (2010; doi:10.1016/S1470-2045[10]70132-7), the addition of vandetanib to docetaxel added an average of 2 weeks to progression-free survival.

In current studies, researchers are moving toward finding targeted therapies that will produce optimal outcomes for patients with NSCLC. ONA