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Officials at AstraZeneca say their lung cancer drug Tagrisso performed well in a phase III clinical trial. Marcus Brandt/picture alliance via Getty Images
  • Findings from a new trial show the drug Tagrisso demonstrated a significant improvement in overall survival among lung cancer patients with early-stage epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated (EGFRm) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
  • Physicians said these results are promising and can offer a new standard of care for people with lung cancer.
  • Experts say the best treatment for lung cancer is immunotherapy, used alone or with traditional therapies. Early testing is also essential.

Approximately 2.2 million people are diagnosed with lung cancer globally and an estimated 25-30% of all patients with NSCLC (the most common type of lung cancer) are diagnosed early enough to have surgery.

As with any form of cancer, early detection is key.

The ADAURA phase III trial reported that AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso (osimertinib) had a significant improvement in overall survival among people with early-stage epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated (EGFRm) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that had received surgery for their cancer.

This drug’s safety and tolerability in the trial were consistent with prior studies.

Tagrisso is an EGFR inhibitor, which is used in lung cancer patients.

“EGFR inhibitors have been used in lung cancer patients for now over 25 years. They’re now used in patients who have specific mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor, and they cause these tumors to shrink and remain without growth for long periods of time. This drug is used in patients with advanced lung cancer, as their first-line therapy,”Dr. Roy Herbst, the deputy director and chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital who was involved in the study, told Medical News Today.

Tagrisso can be used early in people with lung cancer.

“This drug is used in patients with advanced lung cancer, as their first-line therapy,” said Herbst. “Now what we are showing in the ADAURA trials is that you can use it even earlier in patients with lung cancer that have these characteristics.”

He said it can also improve the survival rate among patients.

“At the ASCO annual meeting, we will show that survival has improved in this population. Having drugs like this that are precision-guided tools and medicines that help patients with greater efficacy and fewer side effects, is really what cancer research these days is striving to achieve — better therapy in a more precise way. The work that will be presented at ASCO will support this fact,” Herbst explained.

“Approximately 80 to 85 percent of lung cancers are classified as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and EGFR is one of the most common genetic drivers in lung cancer,” said Dr. Nishan Tchekmedyian, the regional medical director for City of Hope Orange County and a medical oncologist and hematologist at City of Hope Orange County Lennar Foundation Cancer Center in California.

“We know that patients with EGFR-driven non-small cell lung cancer have a need for the right molecularly targeted treatment options,” he told Medical News Today.

He noted that the findings from this trial provide people with a targeted pill therapy option that increases cure rates after surgery in most early-stage EGFR mutated lung cancers.

“Precision medicine, which involves targeting drivers of cancer’s growth such as EGFR, is transforming the treatment of lung cancer,” said Tchekmedyian. “Several driver mutations, including EGFR, can be targeted with medicines that are approved in clinical trials.”

Promising new treatments from trials such as these can provide hope for people with EGFR NSCLC, Tchekmedyian added.

“The ADAURA Phase III trial holds great significance in the field of lung cancer treatment,” said Dr. Wael Harb, a hematologist and medical oncologist at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in California.

“This trial is the first of its kind to provide evidence of survival benefit in the adjuvant setting, which is a crucial milestone in improving outcomes for these patients,” he told Medical News Today.

This drug sets a new standard of care for people with lung cancer.

“The ADAURA trial’s findings are groundbreaking as they highlight the potential of TAGRISSO to extend the lives of patients with early-stage EGFR-mutated lung cancer, who historically faced high rates of recurrence and previously had limited targeted treatment options after surgery. The significant improvement in overall survival observed in this Phase III trial signifies a major advancement in the field, offering a new standard of care for these patients,” Harb stated.

There are numerous types and a variety stages in lung cancer.

“The most important thing for lung cancer is to find it early. If you find it early, lung cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of those different modalities. We often speak here at Yale about the need for a tumor board where different physicians can discuss the care and determine the best way of pulling it all together,” said Herbst.

Physicians also have new therapies that target specific gene alterations and disease.

“Immunotherapy is truly a breakthrough in the last decade. We have some of these drugs that we can use alone or in combination, and we also have clinical trials. We have many tools against lung cancer and we’re trying to gain more. We have to identify the type of lung cancer, the stage of lung cancer, and once we have that we can put together the best possible therapy,” Herbst stated.

Tchekmedyian agreed that early testing and detection, accurate diagnostics, and a treatment plan for your specific type of lung cancer are important elements in the fight against lung cancer.

“We know that in lung cancer there are many types and subtypes, and for each of these, you want to detect it as early as possible because that is when it is most treatable. As a lung cancer specialist, I see patients every day who are living with – not defined by – lung cancer. Precision medicine, the combination of molecular testing and targeted drugs, has been a game changer in our efforts to fight a highly lethal form of cancer,” Tchekmedyian explained.

Immunotherapy combined with certain therapies can make a major difference.

“We have made monumental advances in immunotherapy, which used alone or with conventional therapies can offer patients far better outcomes. Lung cancer care options may include minimally invasive, thoracoscopic and robotic surgery, or nonsurgical treatments like targeted therapies, immunotherapy and targeted radiation approaches,” said Tchekmedyian.