Lung cancer drug approved for treating pancreatic cancer

Genentech and OSI Pharmaceuticals have announced that U.S. regulators have approved their lung cancer drug Tarceva for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given it's approval the for Tarceva to be used in combination with gemcitabine chemotherapy for the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer in patients who have not received previous chemotherapy.

Tarceva, or erlotinib, produced by Genentech and OSI Pharmaceuticals, was originally designed to treat lung cancer, but according to a late-stage clinical trial, it has demonstrated a significant survival benefit when added to chemotherapy as an initial treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Swiss drug maker Roche which holds a majority stake in Genentech and international marketing rights to Tarceva, has apparently applied to European regulators for the additional pancreatic cancer approval.

In the study it was found that 24 percent of patients receiving Tarceva plus gemcitabine were alive after one year, compared to 19 percent of patients receiving gemcitabine plus placebo.

Dr. Malcolm Moore, an oncologist and researcher from Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, says improvements in therapy in advanced pancreatic cancer have been very difficult to come by and Erlotinib represents a notable step forward for patients and health care providers in a disease with a very poor prognosis.

According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a patient advocacy group, pancreatic cancer has the highest one-year mortality rate of any cancer.

The average life expectancy for a patient diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that has spread is three to six months.

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