A trial of erlotinib and pemetrexed for non small cell lung cancer in non smokers

Cancer type:

Lung cancer
Non small cell lung cancer




Phase 2

This trial was looking at having either erlotinib, pemetrexed, or a combination of both for non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that had spread.

Doctors use surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy to treat non small cell lung cancer. But sometimes the cancer continues to grow or comes back after treatment. In this situation, you may have chemotherapy or a type of biological therapy called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor.

In this trial researchers were comparing treatments for locally advanced lung cancer, or lung cancer that had spread to another part of the body (metastatic Open a glossary item NSCLC). They compared

  • A chemotherapy drug called pemetrexed
  • A biological therapy drug called erlotinib
  • A combination of both drugs

The aims of the trial were to

  • Find out which treatment worked best for non small cell lung cancer
  • Learn more about the side effects

Summary of results

The trial team found having a combination of pemetrexed and erlotinib worked best. People having both drugs did have more side effects but these were manageable.

The trial recruited 240 people who were put into 1 of 3 groups at random. Neither they nor their doctors could decide which group they were in.

  • 78 people had pemetrexed and erlotinib
  • 82 had erlotinib alone
  • 80 had pemetrexed alone

The trial team looked at the average length of time that people lived without any signs of the cancer growing. They found this was

  • 7.4 months for those who had pemetrexed and erlotinib
  • 3.8 months for those who had erlotinib alone
  • 4.4 months for those who had pemetrexed

The main side effects were

The number of people who had bad side effects was highest in the group having pemetrexed and erlotinib.

The findings from this trial show that those having treatment with pemetrexed and erlotinib lived longer without signs of their cancer growing. But these people also had more severe side effects from their treatment.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Mayukh Das

Supported by

Eli Lilly and Company Limited
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 3689

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Cara took part in a clinical trial

A picture of Cara

"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”

Last reviewed:

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