NEW YORKThe availability of new therapeutic options are
focusing more attention on lung cancer, a disease for which advances
have been slow in coming, said Ronald Blum, MD, director of the
Comprehensive Cancer Center and chief of oncology, St. Vincents
Hospital and Medical Center, New York City. He discussed these
advances during a Cancer Care, Inc., teleconference for patients.
It seems that lung cancer has gotten proportionately less
attention than other types of cancers, Dr. Blum said. But
actually, over the last 20 years, new drugs of proven benefit have
In a very clear strategy, he said, oncologists have
identified the combination of drugs that produces the clearest
objective benefit, defined as a shrinkage of the tumor, prolongation
of quality of life, and survival, in a significantly higher
proportion of patients, compared with other treatments.
Treating Metastatic Disease
The ability to treat metastatic lung cancer has greatly improved with
the availability of the platinums, represented by cisplatin
(Platinol) and carboplatin (Paraplatin) and by the introduction of
vinorelbine (Navelbine), he said.
Today, vinorelbine is the drug of choice as a single agent,
better than all other single agents and clearly able to prolong
survival and improve quality of life for people with lung
cancer, Dr. Blum said.
The third new option is the taxanes, represented by paclitaxel
(Taxol) and docetaxel (Taxotere). Both have clear proven
benefit for people with non-small-cell lung cancer, he said.
Another drug recently approved for use as first-line treatment of
non-small-cell-lung cancer is gemcitabine (Gemzar).
Not enough attention has been paid to the respiratory symptoms of
lung cancer, Dr. Blum said. I think we as health care providers
have underappreciated the simple fact that lung cancer is a disease
of the lungs, and if the cancer is not controlled in the lungs,
patients will have pulmonary symptoms that profoundly affect their
quality of life.
Shortness of breath can arise for a variety of reasons, some of them
reversible, he pointed out. Pulmonary physicians, I think, are
an underutilized resource in trying to improve the quality of life
for people with lung cancer.
In a follow-up interview with Oncol-ogy News International, Dr. Blum
emphasized that lung cancer has not received enough attention.
Although lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths in
women, breast cancer gets far more attention, he said.