NEW YORK -- Pfizer Inc.'s just-approved Xalkori, the first new medicine in several years for deadly lung cancer, shows the value of a new research standard: precisely targeting rare diseases linked to gene variants.
That's the view of cancer specialists, Pfizer executives and patients treated with Xalkori. They discussed it shortly after its U.S. approval, along with a companion diagnostic test from Abbott Molecular Oncology, for use in a small subset of lung cancer patients.
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Xalkori is approved for the roughly 4 percent of patients with non-small cell lung cancer who have what's called the ALK fusion gene. That's only about 6,000 Americans a year, but most patients tested had tumors shrink or disappear for months, without the nasty side effects of chemotherapy.