You may know someone who needs this.

Breaking from

Breakthrough Drug 'Melts Away' Lung Cancer

A breakthrough drug treatment may stop a form of non-small cell lung cancer in its tracks, according to the University of Colorado Cancer Center. While the drug doesn't actually cure the disease, it turns a certain death sentence into a chronic but manageable condition.

This type of lung cancer is characterized by molecular changes in the tumor that drives its growth. It kills 20,000 Americans every year, but a new oral drug called an "ALK inhibitor" brings it to a standstill. The revolutionary drug in effect "melts away" this subtype of lung cancer, raising the prospect that similar drugs for other forms of lung cancer may also be found.

"By looking at the very genetics of the cancer, you can say 'This is what is driving the cancer in the first place,'" Dr. Ross Camidge, assistant professor of medical oncology at UC Denver, told KCNC-TV in an interview.

"Less than 30 people in the world with this type of lung cancer have been treated so far with this drug, but almost all of them have had dramatic responses," Dr. Camidge said. "Our first patient here in Colorado who tested positive for the ALK fusion protein has no evidence of lung cancer after just six weeks of treatment. She had been diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer nine years ago."

Phase III clinical trials are scheduled to begin in the fall. If they are successful, the new drug should be generally available within three years.

LUNG CANCER FACT: According to the Centers for Disease Control, more people die from lung cancer than any other type. It accounts for more deaths than colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer combined. In America in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 90,139 men and 69,078 women died from it.