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November 2020

Professor Ben Solomon  jpeg
Professor Ben Solomon

Trial leads to more potent cancer treatment

A Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre-led international clinical trial has shown a new drug can dramatically improve outcomes for patients with advanced lung cancer.

The trial supports its use as a first-line treatment.

The trial involved almost 300 patients with ALK-positive, non-small cell lung cancer – a type most commonly seen in the young and who have never or only ever lightly smoked.

All patients had received no prior treatment for their cancer which had spread elsewhere and they were randomised to receive either the new drug lorlatinib or the current standard-of-care.

Lorlatinib patients were more likely to have their cancers shrink or become invisible on scans – 76 per cent in the lorlatinib group versus 58 per cent for standard-of-care.

This was most marked in patients with hard-to-treat brain metastases, with 82 per cent versus 23 per cent showing these benefits.

Responses were also more durable and, when followed up more than 1.5 years after treatment, lorlatinib patients had a more than 70 per cent reduced risk of death or their cancer getting worse.

Peter Mac Lung Service medical oncologist Ben Solomon presented these practice-changing results at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Virtual Congress 2020.

‘Our study has confirmed lorlatinib leads to both more powerful and durable effects in these patients with advanced ALK-positive lung cancers compared to the current standard-of-care,’ Professor Solomon said.

‘There is also a notably potent response in patients with brain metastases, a group that often has a poorer outlook and for whom new treatment options are urgently needed.’

Lorlatinib was compared to the standard-of-care crizotinib and both are in an emerging class of drugs known as ALK-inhibitors.

Trial participants included young Bendigo mum and Peter Mac patient Courtney Delecca, who said the drug was giving her more precious time with her family.

‘It’s given me my life and given my daughter her mum,’ Mrs Delecca said.

‘She’s almost five now and will start school next year – I’m just so grateful to be able to see that.’