Lung Cancer Pill Made By AstraZeneca Reduced Death Risk By Half in Large-Scale Trial

Osimertinib, Treatment for Lung Cancer

A pill for lung cancer has shown remarkable results in newly published research over the weekend. The pill, known as osimertinib, was found to reduce the risk of death by half over a five-year period for those who received it alongside surgery. This treatment targets patients with tumors that have a relatively common type of mutation.

Developed by AstraZeneca and marketed under the brand name Tagrisso, osimertinib is part of a class of drugs that inhibit a protein called the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). While EGFR is used by normal cells, certain cancers produce it in much higher levels, fueling their growth.

In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration approved osimertinib for treating advanced non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) with a specific EGFR-related mutation. Since then, AstraZeneca has aimed to demonstrate that this drug can broadly treat EGFR-linked cancers.

The recent research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examines long-term data from the ADAURA Phase III trial conducted by the company.

The trial involved 682 patients diagnosed with early-stage EGFR-mutated NSCLCs who had their tumors completely removed via surgery. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either osimertinib or a placebo.

These patients had their tumors detected early enough to potentially be cured with surgery alone. However, these cancers frequently recur and often become fatal. In this trial, patients taking osimertinib had a significantly higher survival rate.

Tagrisso – osimertinib

Both the primary analysis (covering a subset of patients) and the secondary analysis (including all participants) showed that the drug reduced the risk of death five years after treatment by 51%.

88% of patients in the osimertinib group were still alive five years later, compared to 78% in the placebo group.

Lung cancer rates have dropped significantly over the past several decades, largely due to a decrease in smoking.

Nonetheless, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death, and current treatments offer low survival odds (the five-year survival rate is around 25%).

NSCLC is the most common form of lung cancer, and EGFR-mutated cancers account for a quarter of these cases worldwide (up to 40% in Asian populations). These results thus represent a major advancement in treating these specific cancers.

AstraZeneca plans to release additional data later this year on the effectiveness of combining osimertinib with standard chemotherapy for treating advanced EGFR-mutated lung cancers.

Meanwhile, external researchers and advocates are already enthusiastic about the drug’s potential to become a primary treatment for these patients.

“It is hard to convey how important this finding is and how long it’s taken to get here,” Nathan Pennell, a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology who was not involved with the study, told the Guardian. “This shows an unequivocal, highly significant improvement in survival.”

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