According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Pfizer's cancer drug crizoinib was able to treat non-small cell lung cancer patients whose tumors carried a specific genetic mutation. That mutation, found in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene, is also found in other cancers such as sarcoma, a particular type of pediatric brain cancer, and some lymphomas, breast and colon cancers, notes BusinessWeek. Pfizer hopes that crizoinib's ability to treat lung cancer with the mutated gene will carry over into other cancers.
In the study, 82 patients with the specific genetic mutation were given the drug. Forty-six patients saw their tumor shink by more than 30 percent. Crizotinib stopped tumor growth in 27 of the patients, while one patient's tumor disappeared entirely. "The bottom line is that there was a 72 percent chance the tumor would shrink or remain stable for at least six months," noted study co-author Dr. Geoffrey Shapiro, according to BusinessWeek. Unfortunately, only two to seven percent of people with non-small cell lung cancer have tumors with the ALK gene.
"While this is a Phase I study, the high response rates observed in patients with ALK-positive (lung cancer) who received crizotinib suggest that we may be one step closer to the development of 'precision' or 'personalized' cancer treatments that target specific genetic factors that drive certain tumors," said Pfizer's Dr. Mace Rothenberg in a statement.