Patients with a specific type of oesophageal cancer survived longer when they were given the latest lung cancer drug, according to new results.
Up to one in six patients with oesophageal cancer were found to have EGFR duplication in their tumour cells and taking the drug gefitinib, which targets this fault, boosted their survival by up to six months, and sometimes longer.
Of the 48 patients who had extra EGFR copies in their tumour cells, 13 per cent of those who had gefitinib survived for at least a year, while none of the patients who received a placebo survived that long.
Dr Russell Petty, a medical oncologist from the University of Aberdeen, said: “This is exciting news in our field. It’s the first time any drug has shown survival benefit for oesophageal patients who have stopped responding to their initial treatment. To date there’s been disappointingly little progress in treating this cancer type, which kills nearly 8,000 people a year and sadly is often diagnosed late making it difficult to treat successfully.
“It’s thought that up to 16 per cent of oesophageal cancer patients could benefit from gefitinib, providing valuable extra months of life to people who would otherwise have had very few options available to them.”