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Researchers analyzed data from nearly 103,000 people older than 65 who were diagnosed with advanced lung cancer between 1992 and 2009. Of those patients, nearly 15 percent had survived previous cancers, including prostate, breast and gastrointestinal cancers.
Those who had survived an earlier cancer had 10 percent better overall survival and 20 percent better lung cancer-specific survival than those who had never been diagnosed with another cancer before getting lung cancer.
Having a prior cancer diagnosis did not affect outcomes among the patients with advanced lung cancer, which means these patients should be allowed to take part in clinical trials of new lung cancer treatments, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas concluded.
The study was published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
"When it comes to clinical trial eligibility, a history of prior cancer should not count against you," said senior author and lung cancer specialist Dr. David Gerber. He is an associate professor of internal medicine in UT Southwestern's hematology and oncology division.
"For patients with advanced lung cancer, previous cancer does not adversely affect survival, regardless of the type, stage or timing of the prior cancer," he said in a center news release.
More than 14 million Americans are cancer survivors, but fewer than 5 percent of adults with cancer take part in clinical trials, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
"Previous research by our team found that a substantial proportion of lung cancer patients -- up to 18 percent -- are excluded from clinical trial participation solely due to a history of prior cancer. This longstanding and widespread practice reflects concerns that lung cancer patients with a prior cancer would have worse outcomes," Gerber said.
"In the current study, these patients' outcomes were as good -- or even better than -- those with no previous cancer diagnosis," he added.
-- Robert Preidt
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