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How Effective Is Erlotinib for Lung Cancer?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Erlotinib is a relatively effective treatment for lung cancer. It is primarily used for non-small cell lung cancer, the most common variety. Studies have shown that survival rates for patients taking the drug are higher than for those receiving a placebo. Research has also shown that the drug appears to be effective for women, and can reduce the chances of dying as a result of lung cancer by 26 percent. Some patients respond to the drug despite previously taking a drug which works on the same basic principle.

Research conducted into the effects of erlotinib for lung cancer has shown that the drug improves the survival rates of patients compared to a placebo. After one year on the treatment, 31 percent of patients taking erlotinib survive, while only 22 percent of patients taking a placebo survive. Studies such as this often do not test erlotinib against an alternative lung cancer treatment, only a useless placebo. Scientists have also found that the progression of the cancer is slower for those taking erlotinib for lung cancer. Despite these positive results, erlotinib for lung cancer is only recommended as an alternative to docetaxel or for patients who do not respond to other treatments.

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Patients on erlotinib don’t usually experience progression of the cancer for 2.2 months, compared to 1.8 months for placebo patients. Taking erlotinib for lung cancer also combats some of the more common symptoms of the condition. Patients taking the drug experience a reduction in cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.

Erlotinib for lung cancer works by blocking the receptors responsible for the affected cells' growth and multiplication. Epidermal growth factor receptors take in epidermal growth factor, which causes a chemical reaction that causes a tumor to grow. The drug blocks these receptors, which are found on most patients' tumors. It fills the receptor and thereby stops epidermal growth factor from helping the tumor grow and spread. Studies have also confirmed that some patients taking similar drugs for their lung cancer may be able to switch onto erlotinib when the old drug loses its effectiveness.

Studies have also found a strange trend in the patients who respond better to the drug. More women than men, for example, respond positively to the drug. Asians have also been identified as another group who respond better to the drug in multiple scientific studies. It also helps if patients taking erlotinib for lung cancer have never smoked.

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