F.D.A. Approves Drug for Persistently Deadly Form of Lung Cancer

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved an innovative new treatment for patients with a form of lung cancer. It is to be used only by patients who have exhausted all other options to treat small cell lung cancer, and have a life expectancy of four to five months.

The drug tarlatamab, or Imdelltra, made by the company Amgen, tripled patients’ life expectancy, giving them a median survival of 14 months after they took the drug. Forty percent of those who got the drug responded.

After decades with no real advances in treatments for small cell lung cancer, tarlatamab offers the first real hope, said Dr. Anish Thomas, a lung cancer specialist at the federal National Cancer Institute who was not involved in the trial.

“I feel it’s a light after a long time,” he added.

Dr. Timothy Burns, a lung cancer specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, said that the drug “will be practice-changing.”

(Dr. Burns was not an investigator in the study but has served on an Amgen advisory committee for a different drug.)

The drug, though, has a side effect that can be serious — cytokine release syndrome. It’s an overreaction of the immune system that can result in symptoms like a rash, a rapid heartbeat and low blood pressure.

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