The results of a recent clinical trial show that a test that identifies key biomarkers in advanced lung cancer helped reduce the risk of death by 36% over a 30-month period. The findings were recently presented at the 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

The test was developed in 2003 when researchers from the University of Colorado Cancer Center created a scoring system ranging from 0 to 400 that identified patients with the highest levels of protein Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). Those scoring over 200 had a better prognosis.

The recent clinical trial, known as the FLEX-study, which was held in Europe, found that 30% of the advanced lung cancer patients who took part had high levels of the EGFR protein identified by the University of Colorado Cancer Center test.

The trial consisted of 1,125 advanced lung cancer patients separated into two groups—one received standard chemotherapy, while the other received chemotherapy along with the drug cetuximab, an antibody that attaches to EGFR receptors atop lung cancer cells and often inhibits their growth. Using the Colorado test, the trial showed that Caucasian patients with an over expression of EGFR and treated with chemotherapy and cetuximab had a 36% reduction in deaths compared to the other group.

Cetuximab, or Erbitux, is primarily used to fight colorectal and head and neck cancers.

“With this personalized medicine we can identify subgroups of patients that can get better effects from certain drugs. In some cases there is a potential cure. Right now the cure rate for advanced lung cancer is two to three percent at best. This is a huge improvement but everything is based on the selection criteria,” said Fred R. Hirsch, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who developed the test along with colleague Wilbur Franklin, MD.

Source: University of Colorado Denver