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New non-small lung cancer drug shows promise in extending life expectancy

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A new drug is showing promise in helping non-small call lung cancer patients live a bit longer, about six weeks, and researchers believe it's significant given the fatality factor with such cancer.

A new study involving 1,253 cancer sufferers announced Saturday by Eli Lilly and Co. states ramucirumab helps those in late-stage cancer who had experienced a relapse after their first treatment. Those who were prescribed ramucirumab lived for 10.5 months, those who weren't given the drug lived for 9.1 months.

"This is the first treatment in approximately a decade to improve the outcome of patients," said Dr. Maurice Perol, the study's top investigator and chiefof thoracic oncology at Cancer Research Center of Lyon in France, in a statement.

The research is a continuation of investigation into potential new drugs given that relapse is nearly 100 percent when it comes to non-small cell lung cancer patients. According to the American Cancer Society there will be 224,200 new lung cancer cases diagnosed this year and it's expected 159,200 will die from the cancer.

Oncologists are looking for improved therapies known as second-line treatments for non-small cell lung cancer because virtually all patients eventually relapse.

The drug, ramucirumab, got regulatory approval earlier this year for treating advanced gastric cancer and financial experts believe sales of the drug will hit $1.2 billion in six years.

Researchers say the drug blocks the formation of blood vessels that feed tumor growth.

"This is the first treatment in approximately a decade to improve the outcome of patients in the second-line setting," said Perol, according to an article at HealthDay.

"The survival improvement is significant because patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer typically have a very short survival time following second-line therapy."

The drug discovery was the topic of a presentation at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

"It's exciting to see progress in this disease, where the steps are small but cumulative," said session moderator Gregory Masters, MD, from the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center , and an ASCO expert in lung and head and neck cancers. "We're excited to have another agent that shows activity, especially in this very difficult-to-treat population."

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