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Encouraging Results of Afatinib Trials Offer Hope to Mesothelioma Patients

HopeThe anti-cancer compound Gilotrif (afatinib) was granted approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July 2013 for patients with late stage non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors express specific types of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene mutations. Now, the maker of the drug reports data from two independent Phase III clinical trials show “significantly extended overall survival of lung cancer patients with the most common EGFR mutation over chemotherapy.” These findings give hope to the mesothelioma community.

The EGFR gene is a primary biomarker for researchers hoping to find new, effective treatments for lung cancer and mesothelioma patients. EGFR, a protein found on the surface of some cells to which epidermal growth factor binds and causes the cells to divide and spread, is found at abnormally high levels on the surface of many types of cancer cells including over 50% of pleural mesothelioma patients.

According to a Jan. 12 press release from Boehringer Ingelheim, the maker of afatinib, the LUX-Lung 3 and LUX-Lung 6 phase III clinical trials for EGFR/NSCLC patients showed that patients with the Del19 marker, the most common EGFR mutation, “lived more than one year longer when treated with first-line afatinib, an irreversible ErbB Family Blocker, compared to standard chemotherapy.”

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a cancer found in the outer lining of the lungs caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Just as with NSCLC, there are a variety of chemotherapeutic agents that can be prescribed to fight mesothelioma. The current standard of care utilizes a combination of pemetrexed/cisplatin, which was also the comparative chemotherapy treatment used in the trial.

“These data provide important evidence about the use of afatinib in patients whose tumors have the Del19 mutation and tell us that the standard treatments and approaches should no longer be assumed equivalent for every EGFR mutation,” said Lecia V. Sequist, M.D., MPH, medical oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Personalized care targeted to a patient’s unique mesothelioma or lung cancer characteristics offers treatment options that may not otherwise have been considered and optimizes the potential for success of the treatment. When oncologists provide treatment plans based on a patient’s biomarkers, such as EGFR, the chance for increasing a patient’s survival increases.

“We are proud to have these results published in The Lancet Oncology to provide further insights into the role of afatinib as first-line treatment for patients with specific mutation types,” commented Berthold Greifenberg, M.D., vice president, Clinical Development and Medical Affairs, Oncology, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “These findings reinforce the importance of identifying the specific mutation types to help improve outcomes for patients with EGFR mutation-positive lung cancer.”

Afatinib is to be used concurrently with the therascreen EGFR RGQ PCR Kit, a companion diagnostic that helps determine if a patient’s lung cancer cells express the EGFR mutations.

Gilotrif/afatinib is developed by Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies, headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany.

Lung cancer: Phase III data for Gilotrif (afatinib) published in The Lancet Oncology
The Lancet Oncology publishes Phase III data showing Giotrif® (afatinib*) significantly extended overall survival of lung cancer patients with the most common EGFR mutation over chemotherapy

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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 7 years. Follow Nancy on Google+

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