Lung Cancer Therapy May Enhance Metastatic Brain Cancer Outcomes

A medication commonly used to treat non-small cell lung cancer that has spread may offer benefits for patients with metastatic brain cancers, according to a new study published in JAMA Network Open.

In this meta-analysis, researchers assessed 15 studies consisting of 324 patients. They found that 64% cent of patients with metastatic brain cancer whose cancer had spread from their lungs and were part of clinical trials with this therapy experienced a measurable response, while 90% cent experienced disease control in the central nervous system.

However, the results also showed that up to 40% of patients, reported severe side effects from the treatment. “The development of brain metastases is an often-feared complication of cancer,” said Anders Erickson, a graduate student at St. Michael’s Hospital in Dr. Sunit Das’ lab, who led this research in a press release.

“Cancers that spread to the brain have historically required radical treatment with surgery or radiation. Chemotherapies that are capable of killing cancer cells in the rest of the body are unable to penetrate the blood-brain barrier.”

“Though more research is needed, our study supports the potential role this therapy could play for patients,” said Dr. Das, a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s. “It suggests we may one day be able to treat these patients without the concerns associated with surgery and radiation.”

The researchers will now aim to investigate this topic on a broader scale to elucidate their finding by looking at larger data sets.

“We hope our work will contribute to knowledge that will inform future treatment and move the needle for patients with metastatic brain cancer in the era of precision medicine,” Erickson said.