Clinical trial targets advanced lung cancer

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – It’s the latest clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer.

Yale Cancer Center is one of 19 sites in the country to offer it, for patients with advanced squamous cell lung cancer.

Patients like Don Kleban, who has stage four lung cancer, know the benefits of clinical trials.

“I don’t know why the chemo didn’t work for me and I don’t know how long this is going to continue but I’m having a good day,” Kleban said.

Down the hall, on the 8th floor of Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, Bob Carlson is just as ecstatic.

“I feel really good,” Carlson said. “Compared to chemo, this is a walk in the park.”

Both are on the same trial that investigates a drug that activates their own immune system to target their advanced lung cancer after chemo failed them. The latest cat scans show their tumors are shrinking.

There’s more to come with a launch of another study.

Dr. Roy Herbst is Chief of Medical Oncology at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow.

“Now we have one trial that’s an umbrella,” Herbst said. This trial is for patients with squamous cell lung cancer, who’ve failed at least one therapy.

“It’s a disease that almost exclusive occurs in people who have smoked or had a history of smoking in the past,” Herbst said. “It has not been a disease easy to treat.”

Five experimental drugs are involved, using genomic profiling to match the patient to the treatment.

“We can take the tumor and we can profile for over 240 different genes,” Herbst said. “And we can determine what’s on and what’s off in the tumor, what’s causing that tumor to grow.”

The lead investigator points out that the path from the lab to the patient is now shorter than ever.

“Some of these drugs we are studying in this new protocol that target the cell cycle, that target cell growth, are very new, just a year or two old,” Herbst said.

Meantime, patients already on a study are encouraged for themselves and others with the announcement of the latest lung cancer trial.

“When I hear of a new trial, that excites me very much,” Kleban said.

Carlson added, “When I signed up for this trial, no one knew what it was going to do, but you know what the answer was of doing nothing.”

The advanced squamous cell lung cancer trial will be offered at all eight Yale-New Haven Health Care Centers.

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