The targeted agent Tarceva® (erlotinib) nearly doubles progression-free survival compared with chemotherapy when used as initial treatment for advanced non-small cell lung cancer that contains an EGFR gene mutation. These results were recently presented at the 14th World Conference on Lung Cancer.

As cancer research has evolved, it’s become apparent that the specific characteristics of a tumor can have a profound effect on the behavior of the cancer and its response to particular treatments. In the case of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), for example, mutations in the EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) gene may influence whether the cancer responds to the EGFR-targeted drugs such as Tarceva. Among people with NSCLC, EGFR mutations are most common in people of Asian ethnicity, women, never-smokers, and those with a type of lung cancer known as adenocarcinoma.

Tarceva is currently approved for the treatment of advanced NSCLC after initial treatment has failed, or as maintenance therapy after chemotherapy.

Much of the research on EGFR-targeted therapies has involved Asian populations. To explore Tarceva for the initial treatment of lung cancer in a non-Asian population, researchers conducted a Phase III clinical trial known as the EURTAC (European Tarceva vs Chemotherapy) study. This trial included patients from Europe with newly diagnosed NSCLC who were treated initially with either Tarceva or chemotherapy. All patients had lung cancer that contained an EGFR mutation.

  • Responses to treatment occurred in 54.5% of patients treated with Tarceva compared with 10.5% treated with chemotherapy
  • Survival time without progression of cancer was 9.4 months in the group treated with Tarceva compared with 5.2 months in the group treated with chemotherapy.
  • Patients treated with Tarceva did not suffer as severe side effects as those treated with chemotherapy.

These results provide additional evidence that initial treatment with Tarceva benefits patients with advanced NSCLC that contains an EGFR gene mutation.

Reference: Gervais, R. et al. The EURTAC (European Tarceva® vs Chemotherapy) study: Interim results of a phase III randomized trial of erlotinib vs chemotherapy (CT) in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients (P) with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activating mutations. Presented at the 14th annual World Conference on Lung Cancer. July 4-7, 2011. Amsterdam, Netherlands. Abstract O10.01.

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