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Whittingham Changing Lung Cancer Treatment

Genetically Targeted Lung Cancer Study Expanding

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Norwalk, CT | Added on August 06, 2014 At 11:43 AM

A new drug through a clinical trial at Norwalk Hospital is changing the way doctors are treating lung cancer.

"We've now been able to identity a couple of specific genetic changes that can be targeted with drugs. Right now it is standard of care to treat some patients who have a mutation in the gene called EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) with a drug called Tarceva or another drug called afatinib," said Dr. Richard Frank, medical oncologist and Director of Cancer Researcha at Norwalk Hospital.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women.  According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), each year more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. 

There are two major types of lung cancer, non-small cell and small cell.  

Diagnostic testing guides treatment by determining the type and stage of the cancer, as well as genetic mutations in the cancer cells.

According to Dr. Richard Frank, the medicine targets a specific gene mutation in patients tumors.

"This mutation is more common in people who did not smoke and developed lung cancer. There is a population especialy in young women, that is rising exponentially but we do not know why."

With the new drugs, patients now have another treatment option other than traditional chemotherapy.

"Now it's gene abnormality - pill. It is a targeted approach, said Dr. Frank.

And Dr. Frank says the drugs are yielding promising results. "Not all the cells are killed but patients can enjoy remission of many months or many years in some cases. There has been a phase I trial already done and most of the patients responded so we know this pill is very active. We are now in the expansion trial meaning more people will recieve the drug, and probably as a result of this, the drug will recieve approval [from the FDA].

For more information about this clinical trial or about the cancer research program at Norwalk Hospital, please contact Jennifer M. Long, ANP-BC, nurse practitioner and clinical coordinator, Whittingham Cancer Center, 203-852-2996 or email

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