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Pill may help advanced lung cancer

A one-a-day pill could help women with advanced lung cancer live longer, according to new research.

A trial by Cancer Research UK has found that Tarceva could extend life and is most effective in women.

The drug, also used to treat cancer of the pancreas, is currently only licensed in the UK as a second-line treatment following chemotherapy.

But researchers treated patients who were too ill for chemotherapy with Tarceva in the trial.

Early results showed 15% of women given the drug were alive and had no progression of their cancer a year after taking Tarceva. This compared with only 5% of women taking a placebo.

The trial involved 670 men and women with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, of whom more than half were over the age of 77.

Lung cancer has a poor prognosis, with only around 7% of sufferers in the UK alive five years after diagnosis.

According to Cancer Research UK, almost half of the 39,750 lung cancer patients in the UK fall into the category of being too ill for chemotherapy.

Tarceva (also known as erlotinib) works by interfering with how cancer cells multiply.

The results of the study were presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago.

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Cancer Research UK