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Global clinical trial shows promise for new lung cancer treatment

March 31, 2014

Young lung cancer patients in Victoria have become some of the first in the world to benefit from a new targeted therapy which has minimised tumours and improved symptoms in a Phase I clinical trial.

The global clinical trial tested 130 patients with a specific type of lung cancer, containing a change in a gene called ALK.

The ALK gene has been found to create “immortal” cells which never seem to switch off, meaning they are constantly in over-drive, growing and proliferating. A tablet therapy, called ceretinib works as an ALK inhibitor, shrinking tumours and resolving symptoms of the cancer.

Mutations in ALK occur in  three to five per cent of all lung cancers and are more likely to affect younger people and non-smokers.

Associate Professor Ben Solomon, a Medical Oncologist at Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre said, “[The] ALK inhibitor, ceretinib turns this switch off again, causing cancer cells to stop growing or die.”

“The trial successfully matched patients with a specific cancer-causing gene to a medication specifically targeting that gene.

“This is an advance for personalised cancer medicine and reinforces the importance of genetic testing of lung cancers to identify and individualise the best treatment options,” said Professor Ben Solomon.

While further trials will be required before ceretinib can become more widely available Associate Professor Ben Solomon says it is very promising to have more treatment options on the horizon.

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