Lung cancer pill found to reduce risk of death after surgery by half

According to the findings, the drug osimertinib consumed after tumor removal surgery significantly reduced the risk of patients dying by 51 percent.
Mrigakshi Dixit
Representational image
Representational image


A potent lung cancer pill has shown promise to cut the risk of death by half, as per clinical trial results.

The findings of the phase-3 clinical trials were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (Asco) in Chicago. And the trials were led by Yale University, according to a press release.

This new drug, called osimertinib, is manufactured by the pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca and sold under the name Tagrisso. 

The trial results 

The pill was specially developed to treat the most common type of lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer. Patients with this cancer typically have a specific mutation of the EGFR gene(Epidermal growth factor receptors). 

According to the findings, the drug osimertinib consumed after tumor removal surgery significantly reduced the risk of patients dying by 51 percent. Overall, 88 percent of patients treated with this new drug survived for five years, compared to 78 percent of them placed in the placebo group.

“Tagrisso cut the risk of death by more than half in the adjuvant setting, further establishing this transformative medicine as the backbone treatment for EGFR-mutated lung cancer. These results emphasize the importance of diagnosing patients with lung cancer early, testing for EGFR mutations, and treating all those with an EGFR mutation with Tagrisso,” said Susan Galbraith, Executive Vice President at Oncology R&D of AstraZeneca, in a statement.

This last-phase trial included 680 participants(aged 30 to 86) from 26 countries who suffered from the early stages of this lung cancer.  

All of the study participants displayed EGFR gene mutation, said to be present in about a quarter of all lung cancer cases worldwide. This mutation is responsible for 40 percent of lung cancer cases in Asia. Reportedly, EGFR mutations are more likely in women than men and can be found in individuals who have never smoked or the ones who are light smokers.

Some countries have authorized this drug

The authors recommend this drug should become the "standard of care" for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer across the world. In fact, this medication is already available to some patients in the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries.

“These highly anticipated overall survival results, with 88 percent of patients alive at five years, are a momentous achievement in the treatment of early-stage EGFR-mutated lung cancer. These data underscore that adjuvant treatment with osimertinib provides patients with the best chance of long-term survival,” said Roy S. Herbst, Deputy Director and Chief of Medical Oncology at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut, US, and principal investigator in the trial.

In the near term, this breakthrough drug development provides patients with a better chance of survival post-lung cancer surgery. Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death worldwide, claiming the lives of 1.8 million people each year.

The results have been published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Study Abstract:

Background: Among patients with resected, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)–mutated, stage IB to IIIA non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), adjuvant osimertinib therapy, with or without previous adjuvant chemotherapy, resulted in significantly longer disease-free survival than placebo in the ADAURA trial. We report the results of the planned final analysis of overall survival.

Methods: In this phase 3, double-blind trial, we randomly assigned eligible patients in a 1:1 ratio to receive osimertinib (80 mg once daily) or placebo until disease recurrence was observed, the trial regimen was completed (3 years), or a discontinuation criterion was met. The primary end point was investigator-assessed disease-free survival among patients with stage II to IIIA disease. Secondary end points included disease-free survival among patients with stage IB to IIIA disease, overall survival, and safety.

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