Taking a single daily pill reduces the risk of dying from lung cancer by 51%. The effectiveness of such treatment after surgery was confirmed by a late-stage study led by Yale University, writes The Guardian.

Their results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (Asco) in Chicago.

“Thirty years ago, there was nothing we could do for these patients,” said Dr Roy Herbst, the deputy director of Yale Cancer Center and lead author of the study. “Now we have this potent drug.”

It is about the osimertinib, which is also known as Tagrisso, and which is manufactured by AstraZeneca. It was used in a study involving patients aged 30 to 86 from 26 countries.

The purpose of the trials was to see if the pill could help patients with non-small cell lung cancer. All of the study participants had a mutation in the EGFR gene, which occurs in about a quarter of lung cancers worldwide, and accounts for up to 40% of cases in Asia. The EGFR mutation is more common in women than in men, and in people who have never smoked or were light smokers.

According to Roy Herbst, these pills are changing practice and should become the “standard of care” for a quarter of lung cancer patients worldwide with an EGFR mutation.

After five years, 88% of patients who took a daily pill after tumor removal were still alive, compared with 78% of patients who received a placebo.

The improvement in survival was observed consistently in the analysis of all subgroups of the study. 60% of study participants received chemotherapy, and the survival advantage of osimertinib was observed regardless of whether they had received prior chemotherapy.

Angela Terry, head of the charity EGFR Positive UK, said the trial results were very exciting and extremely important.

“A five-year overall survival rate of 88% is incredibly positive news,” she said. “Having access to a drug whose efficacy is proven and whose side-effects are tolerable means patients can be confident of and able to enjoy a good quality of life for longer.”

As you know, lung cancer is the main cause of death from cancer in the world. It accounts for about 1.8 million deaths per year.