Ramucirumab, a drug that was made to help patients with gastric cancer, is now going to be used to help patients with lung cancer who have previously experienced a relapse after chemotherapy.

The Cancer Research Center of Lyon in France conducted a study that involved 1,253 patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Each patient had previously undergone chemotherapy treatments yet experienced a relapse. Patients then received either the chemotherapy drug docetaxel with ramucirumab or a placebo.

The study revealed that ramucirumab, which is manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY), boosts the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drug. Patients taking the drug typically took 4.5 to 10.5 months to relapse, while patients taking the placebo relapsed after only 3 to 9.1 months. Not only that, but tumor shrinkage for those that took ramucirumab rose to 23 percent, with the placebo group at only 14 percent.

“This is the first treatment in approximately a decade to improve the outcome of patients in the second-line setting,” said study leader Dr. Maurice Perol in a conference. “The survival improvement is significant because patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer typically have a very short survival time following second-line therapy.”

Although ramucirumab does increase life expectancy by 14 percent, it does have some side effects. One of the worse side effects is the possibility of a pulmonary hemorrhage, otherwise known as bleeding in the lungs. However, the new drug does not increase the rate of bleeding in the lungs, which is promising.

“Ramucirumab is an effective targeted agent when added to chemotherapy, with low toxicity,” said lung cancer specialist Dr. Gregory Masters.

Currently, there are no published results in medical journals, although the study was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

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