Lung cancer, among the deadliest form of the disease has a new treatment.

New lung cancer drug shows promising results among patients with tumors that carry a certain genetic mutation. The drug, Crizotinib might prove effective while treating breast and colon cancers as well.

Researchers’ hand-picked 82 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer among 1,500 patients identified. The kind of cancer was noted as the most common one, and the selected patients’ tumors had a mutation in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene.

Study co-author Dr. Geoffrey Shapiro, director of the Early Drug Development Center and associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, said that Crizotinib targets the ALK “driver kinase“ or protein, blocking its activity and preventing the tumor from growing.

"The cancer cell is actually addicted to the activity of the protein for its growth and survival," Shapiro said. "It's totally dependent on it. The idea is that blocking that protein can kill the cancer cell."

The study is published in the Oct. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study said the tumor shrunk by more than 30 per cent during an average of six months among 46 patients put under a dose of crizotinib. In 27 patients, the drug halted the growth of the tumor while in one patient the tumor almost disappeared miraculously. However, the drug had few side effects, including mild gastrointestinal symptoms, said Sharipo.

These results were very positive as compared to results from earlier treatments and there was a 72 per cent chance the tumor would shrink or remain stable for at least six months."

Researchers note that other kinds of cancers might be more complicated and each tumor is different in its own, with each of them requiring newer ways to block growth of tumors differently. This is the reason why you see heterogeneity in the response to the drug.

Researchers are currently enrolling patients for a larger, Phase III clinical trial of crizotinib, Shapiro said. The study was funded by Pfizer, which is developing crizotinib for clinical application, and by grants from the U.S. National Cancer Institute, among others.