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The most common side effects in Iressa patients were rash, acne and diarrhea. The patients on chemo most often suffered from fatigue, a higher risk for infections and hair loss.
In the U.S., Iressa is approved for use in patients who failed chemotherapy. The drug tends to work better in patients who have never smoked, Asians, women and those with a certain genetic profile.
"In the patients that respond, it is very dramatic," said Seckl, who has seen patients live years on the drug. He did not work with AstraZeneca on Iressa, but has consulted with them on other drugs.
"Though the benefits of prolonging life are modest, patients on (Iressa) get a higher quality of life," said Chris Twelves, a professor of clinical cancer oncology at Leeds University. "That should swing the pendulum in its favor."
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