Experimental drug stops some lung cancers

November 12, 2010 7:55:41 PM PST
Lung cancer is one of the hardest cancers to fight. Fewer than 10% of those with it are alive 5 years after they are diagnosed. However, an experimental drug continues to help some patients beat the odds.

And now the trials are being opened to more patients.

For Evie Cogan of Center City, fighting cancer is now a matter of taking 2 pills, twice a day.

"This is so easy. It's like taking vitamins in the morning," she says as she shakes the pills into her hand.

Evie is in the trials for Crizotinib, a drug that can stop some lung cancers from growing.

But it's been a long 5-year trip to this new hope.

When Evie developed a stubborn cough, she never dreamed it was cancer. She, and several doctors, thought it was bronchitis.

"I've never had a cigarette in my life," she says.

But eventually, she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Evie had chemotherapy and it worked.

She went into remission until last year, when the cancer not only came back, it had spread to the lymph nodes. Then standard chemotherapy didn't work.

At the time, Evie's friend saw a story on ABC World News Tonight about Crizotinib.

The drug targets cancer like Evie's, with a genetic mutation called ALK, found in 5% of lung tumors.

She got into the trial, but the closest site at the time was Boston.

The trip was worth it.

"Within 2 weeks, I no longer needed cough medicine," she says.

Within a few months, CT scans showed the cancer was gone from some lymph nodes, and greatly reduced in others.

The drug is now also being tested at the University of Pennsylvania, and it's helping many more patients, including 30-year-old Liz Dols who also says she feels no side effects.

Liz told us, "I have my hair, I have my energy, I can run, I don't look like a cancer patient."

The clinical trials for this drug are in the final stages. It is also being tested on other cancers with the ALK mutation.

Pfizer is developing the drug

More information on the trial at Penn Medicine is available on the Abramson Cancer Center website.

The National Cancer Institute also reported on the latest trial results in its NCI Cancer Bulletin.


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