Erlotinib is a marginally cost-effective treatment for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, according to the results of an economic analysis published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2010;102(5):298-306).

Researchers conducted an economic analysis using clinical data from a randomized placebo-controlled trail of erlotinib in patients with previously treated advanced non-small cell lung cancer to determine the cost-effectiveness of treating various populations with erlotinib.

Natasha Leighl, MD, of the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues reported that the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for erlotinib treatment in the trial population was a figure that exceeds the threshold that is historically accepted as cost-effective.

Further findings revealed that erlotinib may be most cost-effective in patients who have never smoked or who have a high EGFR gene copy number.

According to Scott Ramsey, MD, PhD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the study provided new information to help address some of the questions surrounding the drug’s use. Dr. Ramsey added that although the study’s findings are unlikely to produce any policy changes, they do provide information on the potential economic impact of biomarker-guided treatment with erlotinib.

“Ongoing efforts to identify which patients are most likely to benefit from treatment and to make targeted cancer therapies more affordable will serve to make this important treatment option available for lung cancer patients worldwide,” the authors wrote.