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Medical Moment: New drug destroys lung cancer

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 5:44 PM EDT
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More than 131,000 people will die of lung cancer this year. It has the lowest five-year survival rate of the other most common cancers. That’s because by the time you feel the symptoms, it’s usually too late to effectively treat. But now, a new drug is adding years to the lives of patients.

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From jumping solo at 13,000 feet, to speeding down the highway on her Harley -- Cindy Morris thought nothing could stop her. That was until she was diagnosed with stage four non-small cell lung cancer.

“I was stunned,” she remembers.

Radiation, chemo, surgery and two clinical trials worked temporarily. But tumors returned in her lungs, lymph nodes, adrenal glands, spleen, and brain. Then -- a new drug gave her hope.

Washington University lung cancer oncologists believed this new drug, Sotorasib, may be Cindy’s last chance.

We were in a tough situation where the tumor was popping up everywhere,” says Dr. Siddhartha Devarakonda.

Sotorasib targets tumors caused by a specific DNA mutation, blocking cancer cells from multiplying.

“She had this huge lump that was sitting on the, uh, on her belly,” Dr. Devarakonda said. “We knew that that was bad. And when we started the drug within a couple of weeks, I can no longer find it on exam.”

One week after starting the trial, Cindy was able to cut her pain medication in half. Three weeks into the trial, Cindy’s tumors began shrinking. Now two years later, she’s still taking the drug. All but one tumor in her lung have disappeared.

“I’ve done a mission trip. I I’ve been back to my church. I mean, I feel like me again,” said Morris.

Researchers say in 80% of the 126 patients on the trial, tumors got smaller, or the growth did not progress. Sotorasib is FDA-approved and sold under the brand name Lumakras.

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