9 May 2003
The first agent from a new class of targeted anti-cancer therapies has been approved for lung cancer treatment in Australia this month.
Iressa (gefitinib) is indicated for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer in people who have previously had chemotherapy.
Targeted anti-cancer therapies are the subject of ongoing research and offer the potential of cancer therapy with minimal side effects.
Iressa effectively ‘switches off’ the epidermal growth factor receptor signalling system, which is the system that triggers cancer cells to divide out of control.
Iressa has the potential to shrink tumour size, stabilise disease and relieve debilitating symptoms, without the toxic effects of traditional chemotherapy.
Dr Paul Mitchell, director of cancer services at the Austin Hospital, Melbourne, said, ‘About 40 per cent of advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients who have previously had chemotherapy will benefit from Iressa in terms of their lung cancer symptoms … and in up to 20 per cent of patients their tumour will shrink.’
Dr Mitchell added that symptoms improve rapidly in about 8-10 days, providing people with important quality of life benefits.
The new medication is available in tablet form and is taken once daily. It is not as yet listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Last Reviewed: 12 May 2003