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Drug boost for women with advanced cancer

Women with advanced lung cancer could benefit from a one-a-day pill, experts have said.

Early results from a clinical trial suggest the drug Tarceva, which is also used to treat pancreatic cancer, extends life and is most effective in women.

Patients who were too ill to receive chemotherapy were given Tarceva as a first-line treatment.

Tarceva is currently only licensed in the UK as a second-line treatment after chemotherapy.

Lung cancer has a poor prognosis, with only around 7% of sufferers in the UK alive five years after diagnosis.

In the latest study, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, 15% of women given Tarceva were alive and had no progression of their cancer 12 months after taking the drug. This compared with only 5% taking a placebo.

The trial involved 670 men and women with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, of whom more than half were over the age of 77.

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Tarceva works by interfering with how cancer cells multiply.

Dr Siow Ming Lee said: “These results are a real step forward. We are not yet sure why it was most effective in women, but this is positive news for this large group with few other options.”

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