According to an article published by WebMD, lung cancer patients receiving treatment with Tarceva (erlotnib) may benefit from ingesting a small amount of Coca-Cola with their medication.

Dutch researchers explain that the effectiveness of Tarceva depends on the pH level of the stomach. Many lung cancer patients require a proton pump inhibitor heartburn medication like Nexium or Prilosec, according to the article, drugs that raise stomach pH to more alkaline levels. The increased pH levels lower the absorption rate for Tarceva, cutting its effectiveness in fighting non-small-cell lung cancer, research suggests.

Researchers from Erasmus MC Cancer Institute in Rotterdam (Netherlands) hypothesized taking Tarceva with an acidic beverage cola may reverse stomach pH and improve absorption of the drug. In particular, Coca-Cola Classic was chosen “because it increased stomach acid temporarily and was more acidic than other beverages, such as orange juice, 7-Up and Dr Pepper,” researchers noted.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, analyzed the effect of cola on 28 non-small-cell lung cancer patients who were taking Nexium plus Tarceva. Half of the patients took about 8 ounces of water with their meds for the first seven days, and then the same amount of Coca-Cola Classic for the next seven days. The following two weeks, the patients took the beverages in the reverse order, according to WebMD.

“Cola intake led to a clinically relevant and statistically significant increase” in the absorption of Tarceva for patients taking Nexium, the researchers reported. They believe adding cola to the treatment could be an “easy-to-implement” way to maximize the effectiveness of Tarceva when a heartburn medicine must also be taken by the patient.

More research is needed to see if other types of acidic drinks can work as well as Coca-Cola Classic in this context, the researchers noted.