October 21st, 2010

Afatinib Active in Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer


The investigational drug afatinib appears to slow cancer progression among patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have been treated with Tarceva® (erlotinib) or Iressa® (gefitinib). These results were presented at the 35th European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Non–small cell lung cancer accounts for approximately 85% of all lung cancers.

Because many lung cancer patients experience poor treatment outcomes, researchers continue to explore new approaches to treatment, such as new targeted therapies. Targeted therapies are anticancer drugs that interfere with specific pathways involved in cancer cell growth or survival. Some targeted therapies block growth signals from reaching cancer cells; others reduce the blood supply to cancer cells; and still others stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer cell. Depending on the specific “target,” targeted therapies may slow cancer cell growth or increase cancer cell death.

Afatinib is an investigational targeted therapy that inhibits (EGFR) and the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), both of which are involved in cancer growth. Afatinib is being evaluated in the treatment of NSCLC and breast and head and neck cancers. Tarceva and Iressa also target EGFR.

In this current Phase IIb/III study, researchers with the LUX-Lung 1 trial evaluated 585 patients with advanced NSCLC whose disease had progressed after chemotherapy and Tarceva® or Iressa®. Patients were given either best supportive care plus afatinib or best supportive care plus placebo.

  • Median progression-free survival in the afatinib group was 3.3 months compared with 1.1 month in the placebo group.
  • After eight weeks of treatment, the disease control rate was 58% in the afatinib group versus 19% in the placebo group.
  • Median overall survival in the afatinib group was 11 months compared with 12 months in the placebo group.

The researchers concluded that even though the addition of afatinib to supportive care did not extend overall survival for patients with advanced NSCLC, treatment with afatinib did improve progression-free survival and disease control. Importantly, this finding indicates that afatinib is active in the treatment of NSCLC.

Reference: Miller V, et al. Afatinib benefits lung cancer patients whose cancer progressed after treatment with EGFR inhibitors. Presented at the 35th European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress, Milan, Italy, October 8-12, 2010. Abstract LBA1.

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