The mood could have been grim Feb. 15 when 155 physicians attended the inaugural meeting of the New York Lung Cancer Alliance in Manhattan's glitzy Le Parker Meridien hotel. A month earlier, The New England Journal of Medicine had reported that when 1,155 patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) received combination chemotherapy, half died within eight months.1 The New York meeting, however, was upbeat. Alliance cofounder Abraham Chachoua attributes the optimism to emerging treatments, especially a new class of drugs that inhibit the tyrosine kinase activity of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR).

The Food and Drug Administration, which has yet to approve an EGFR inhibitor, is widely expected to give the nod to AstraZeneca's Iressa (ZD1839) by this summer, an event that could herald a new era in cancer medication. Two-thirds of solid tumors arise from epithelial tissues, and studies suggest that EGFR inhibitors can stabilize or...

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