Trial at UC Irvine targets lung cancer in those who have never smoked

May 25, 2012
Dr. Ignatius Ou

UC Irvine Health is seeking people of Asian descent with lung cancer to participate in a clinical trial of a drug that targets non-small cell lung cancer.

The trial is part of an effort by UC Irvine oncologist Dr. Ignatius Ou and others to tailor chemotherapy by taking advantage of genetic mutations present in tumors.

While smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer, it may also occur in those who have never smoked. This kind of lung cancer is commonly found in Asian people. Epidemiological studies have estimated that more than half of Asian women and 30 percent of Asian men who develop lung cancer have never smoked. Overall, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in America.

“We now know that lung cancer in people who have never smoked is a distinct type of tumor and they have a much better survival rate than in cancer caused by smoking,” Ou says. “This is because those tumors may be caused by at least eight genetic mutations which could be blocked by drugs that are available commercially or are in clinical trials.”

A clinical trial that concluded last year at UC Irvine’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in Orange and other sites around the country found that the drug crizotinib is effective in extended the life of patients with late-stage non-small cell lung cancer. One of these genetic alterations is in the ALK enzyme, or receptor tyrosine kinase. Participants in the trial were given crizotinib to target genetic alterations in ALK, which were first observed and reported in 2007. In 2011, the drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat lung cancer with this mutation.

UC Irvine is now beginning a trial to treat another genetic alteration called ROS and is screening male and female lung cancer patients who have never smoked for the ROS mutation.

To determine whether you are eligible to participate in the crizotinib/ROS trial, please call toll-free 877-UC-STUDY (877-827-8839) or e-mail

Clinical trials are conducted at UC Irvine’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 41 National Cancer Institute designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country and the only one in Orange County.

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