Blog: Decoding the Research

New drug approved for lung cancer!

Published: October 18th, 2012

Abraxane approved by the FDA as a first-line treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. Trial shows higher response rate compared to paclitaxel.

Previously approved to treat metastatic breast cancer, Abraxane is a new formulation of paclitaxel, a chemotherapy that has been used for many years to treat cancers. Paclitaxel is usually given in combination with another type of chemotherapy, carboplatin or cisplatin. Together, these drugs attack dividing cells by disrupting the infrastructure of the cell and interfering with DNA replication.  You can read more about how these drugs work here.

Paclitaxel requires harsh chemicals to dissolve the drug into a liquid form that can be difficult for patients to tolerate. Many patients receive additional medications to deal with the side effects of treatment. Abraxane is a new formulation of paclitaxel, bound to albumin (a protein that transports other compounds and proteins in the bloodstream), that can deliver higher amounts of paclitaxel with fewer side effects.

A large Phase III trial comparing Abraxane + carboplatin to paclitaxel + carboplatin showed a significantly higher overall response rate in the group receiving Abraxane (33% vs 25%). However, the overall survival wasn’t as drastic: 12.1 months in the Abraxane group compared to 11.2 months in the paclitaxel group.

Though we don’t see a huge benefit in overall survival, this drug is easier to administer and has fewer side effects, giving lung cancer patients an improved quality of life. Yet, when we think about new treatments that can save lives, overall survival is an important measure.  One piece of data from this trial that bears further investigation is a more significant benefit to overall survival in elderly patients aged 70 and higher.

This new drug adds to our currently limited arsenal of drugs to fight lung cancer, and has potential to treat many other types of cancer as well.  Celgene is currently pursuing approval of Abraxane for lung cancer in Japan, Australia and New Zealand and is expected to also release data on the use of Abraxane in pancreatic cancer.

Read more here: