Research has shown that a lung cancer pill called osimertinib can significantly reduce the risk of the disease returning and improve survival rates. The drug has been described as ‘groundbreaking’ by cancer specialists and is approved for use in patients with a specific genetic subtype of lung tumor. These tumors are driven by a genetic mutation that causes the release of a protein called EGFR, which promotes tumor growth. However, osimertinib interferes with the signals sent by the gene, blocking the release of the protein and destroying cancer cells.
Dr. Faiz Bhora, a thoracic surgeon, has hailed the trial results of osimertinib as ‘earth-shattering.’ He explains that in the past, medical oncologists were satisfied with survival rates of 5-10%, but now there is a more than 50% improvement in survival. Dr. Bhora has personally witnessed ‘groundbreaking’ results in his own practice and highlights the effectiveness of targeted therapies for patients with tumor mutations.
Lung cancer is a significant health issue, with around 238,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the US, resulting in 127,000 deaths. Approximately 25% of these patients have the EGFR mutation. Dr. Bhora emphasizes that lung cancer is no longer solely associated with smoking, as over 30% of individuals who develop the disease have never smoked, and many of them are women.
Patients eligible for osimertinib include those with the EGFR mutation at any stage of the disease who have undergone prior treatment such as surgery. The drug can be taken for as long as it remains effective. Additionally, around 95% of insurance plans cover osimertinib, including Commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid.
One patient, Kim Mosko, has experienced the benefits of osimertinib. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, she started taking the pill in July. She believes that the medication will prevent the return of lung cancer and plans to take it for the next three years. Although she has experienced some manageable side effects, such as a skin rash, diarrhea, and fatigue, she remains optimistic about her prognosis.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, and one in six people in the US will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime. A recent report by the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that young women are now experiencing higher rates of lung cancer than men. This shift is attributed to declining smoking rates and improved workplace safety regulations. In 1992, there were approximately 65 new cases of lung cancer per 100,000 people, which decreased to about 42 cases in 2019.
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