Antibiotic, screening add almost a year to lung cancer survival

An annual shot of the blockbuster immunotherapy drug Avastin and other drugs and screenings can extend lifespans of patients with advanced stages of lung cancer by nearly half a year without symptoms, according to a new analysis from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Researchers studied 2,525 patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer between 2003 and 2013 who were given either Avastin or a placebo. They found that after 12 to 18 months, those who received the standard treatment of chemotherapy and radiation had a median survival of 9.3 months, compared with 5.3 months for those who received Avastin. And of those given Avastin after 11 months, their median survival was 5.7 months, nearly a half a year longer than those who received the placebo.

“The problem is that lung cancer patients often don’t know they have advanced disease until the disease has metastasized,” said Patrick Horn, an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. “Understanding how early we can intervene and start changing the trajectory of treatment gives hope for improving outcomes for patients with lung cancer.”

The study found the drugs and screenings clearly help slow down the path of metastasis and, in a subset of patients, control the spread of the disease. The study found that both doses of the drugs Avastin and Herceptin and the same combination of molecular tests were associated with improved survival, but only for patients whose cancers did not metastasize to other organs. The drugs alone did not extend survival beyond a year.

The analysis is based on 469 patients who were not treated by a team of researchers.

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