The anti-cancer drug Crizotinib was proposed as an effective drug for treating non-small cell lung cancer, a study published in New England Journal of Medicine said. This drug targets a key tumor progression protein called “driver kinase” in signal transduction cascades of lung cancer cells. Advanced lung cancer is fatal and biggest cancer-killer in the world.

The anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene is mutated in this form of lung cancer. Crizotinib interferes with function of ALK gene. Consequently, the cells dependency on ALK gene function is absolved and tumor progression is suppressed. In this study of 82 patients, tumor size decreased by 30% in 46 people administered Crizotinib. Growth of tumor halted in 27 cases and actually disappeared in one.

"These are very positive results in lung cancer patients who had received other treatments that didn't work or worked only briefly," director of the Early Drug Development Center and associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston Dr. Geoffrey Shapiro said. "The bottom line is that there was a 72 percent chance the tumor would shrink or remain stable for at least six months."

Lung cancer is no more considered a single disease but rather a group of diseases dependent on several kinases. It is very significant that the same ALK protein is mutated in several other forms of cancer and hence this drug can also be administered for treatment of soft-tissues cancer sarcoma , brain tumor or neuroblastoma, lymphomas, breast cancer and colon cancer.

Same ALK gene was mutated in a case of inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor. This drug will work only for the non-small cell lung cancer caused due to ALK gene mutation which is about 2-7% of all cancer patients.

The scientists admit that response to Crizotinib in all cancers is not consistent and explain that this is because the tumor cells possess varying degrees of ability to overcome any interference to function and growth.