Personalized Medicine Advance: Protein Level Test and Related Treatment Help Reduce Risk of Death Over Specified Period in Certain Patients with Advanced Lung Cancer

Researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center have developed a test that identifies a key biomarker in advanced lung cancer that helped reduce the risk of death by 36 percent over a 30- month period in a recent clinical trial. "We are moving from a one-size-fits-all model to more personalized medicine in lung cancer," said University of Colorado School of Medicine Professor Fred R. Hirsch, a Cancer Center investigator who developed the test along with colleague Dr. Wilbur Franklin. "This is a completely new paradigm in treating cancer." The test was developed in 2003 when Dr. Hirsch and his colleagues created a scoring system ranging from 0 to 400 that identified patients with the highest levels of the protein Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). Those scoring over 200 had a better prognosis. A clinical trial held in Europe known as the FLEX-study, found that 30 percent of the advanced lung cancer patients who took part had high levels of the EGFR protein identified by the University of Colorado Cancer Center test. The trial consisted of 1,125 advanced lung cancer patients separated into two groups. One group received standard chemotherapy while the other had chemotherapy along with the drug cetuximab, an antibody that attaches to EGFR receptors atop lung cancer cells and often inhibits their growth. The results were announced at the 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference in Stockholm. Using the Cancer Center test, the trial showed that Caucasian patients with an over expression of EGFR and treated with chemotherapy and cetuximab had a 36 percent reduction in deaths compared to the other group. Cetuximab, or Erbitux, is primarily used to fight colo-rectal and head and neck cancers. Dr.
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