Afatinib Helps Delay Lung Cancer Progression

Afatinib significantly improves progression-free survival among patients with advanced lung cancer that harbors certain genetic mutations compared with standard chemotherapy.

Results from a phase 3 international trial showed that the targeted drug afatinib significantly improves progression-free survival among patients with advanced lung cancer that harbors certain genetic mutations compared with standard chemotherapy.

Researchers randomly assigned 345 patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-driven lung adenocarcinoma, a subtype of non-small cell lung cancer, to either afatinib or a chemotherapy regimen of Alimta (pemetrexed) and cisplatin.

Afatinib was shown to delay disease progression by more than four months compared with chemotherapy. Patients on afatinib had 11.1 months of progression-free survival versus 6.9 months experienced by patients on the chemotherapy regimen. In a group of patients with the most common types of EGFR mutations, progression-free survival was double that of standard therapy (13.6 months versus 6.9 months).

Studies have shown that afatinib inactivates the EGFR pathway longer than other EGFR-targeted therapies, such as Iressa (gefitinib) and Tarceva (erlotinib). Afatinib blocks the broader HER family of receptors, including HER2 and HER4.

Researchers also found that patients on afatinib experienced better quality of life. Afatinib is taken orally, which, according to the study’s lead author James Chih-Hsin Yang, MD, PhD, of the National Taiwan University Hospital, may require fewer visits to the doctor’s office as compared with the intravenous chemotherapy regimen. Also, the worsening of common lung cancer-related symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath, was delayed for those on afatinib compared with those receiving chemotherapy. Common side effects of afatinib included diarrhea, rash and mouth sores.