Blacks Likely to Benefit From Targeted Lung Cancer Therapy09/28/10
TUESDAY, Sept. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Despite previous findings
to the contrary, new research indicates that black patients with
non-small cell lung are as likely to harbor a specific mutation in
tumors as white patients.
This means that black patients should be at least as likely as
white patients to benefit from highly effective therapies that
target the mutation, such as the drug known as erlotinib, the
"This study has immediate implications for patient management," Ramsi Haddad, director of the Laboratory of Translational Oncogenomics at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.
The mutation involves the epidermal growth factor receptor
(EGFR) protein, which is seen in abnormally high numbers on the
surface of cancer cells and associated with cancer spread. EGFR
mutations increase the tumor's sensitivity to certain medications
designed to shrink tumors and slow progress of the disease,
previous research has found.
"Patients with EGFR mutations have a much better prognosis and respond better to erlotinib than those who do not," explained Haddad, who is also an assistant professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
Haddad and his colleagues were scheduled to present their
findings Tuesday in Denver at the American Association for Cancer
Research International Conference on Molecular Diagnostics in
Cancer Therapeutic Development.
The researchers pointed out that black men in particular have a
higher than average incidence of lung cancer. In addition, when
diagnosed, black patients generally face worse outcomes than white
patients. Prior research, the scientists said, suggested that this
disparity in prognosis might be driven by a lower occurrence of
EGFR mutations among black patients.
The current study team noted, however, that their study is
larger than previous trials, having focused on a group of 149
non-small cell lung cancer patients, comprised of 80 white and 69
Using high-tech analytical tools, the study authors found no
statistically significant difference attributable to ethnicity in
the percentage of patients detected as having the relevant
In addition, the team further observed that black patients may
in fact respond better to EGFR mutation-targeting drugs than white
patients, given the specific location of black patients'
"Thus, African ancestry should not be a factor when deciding whether to test a tumor for these mutations, as doing so could widen the disparity seen in survival," Haddad said in the news release. "Physicians treating these patients may want to consider this new information in their treatment decisions."
Like all drugs, erlotinib carries its own set of risks that
doctors weigh against the potential benefits. In 2009, the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration warned that in rare cases, erlotinib
had been linked to serious eye damage and severe, potentially fatal
gastrointestinal tract and skin disorders.
For more on non-small cell lung cancer, visit the
U.S. National Cancer Institute.
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