MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at West Virginia University is participating in two national research studies to test a promising new drug that could benefit lung cancer patients with advanced or metastatic lung cancer.  

The purpose of the studies is to see how the drug, BMS-936558, compares to docetaxel, a standard chemotherapy used as second-line treatment for patients who have been previously treated for advanced or metastatic squamous cell non-small cell lung cancer or previously treated metastatic non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer.  

“Preliminary data on BMS-936558 presented at national meetings showed some promising results,” Mohammed Almubarak, M.D., of the Sara Crile Allen and James Frederick Allen Comprehensive Lung Cancer Program at the WVU Cancer Center, said. “The early results are exciting because they offer patients an alternative to conventional second-line treatments like docetaxel.”

BMS-936558 is a PD-1 inhibitor, part of a new class of agents that work by releasing a biological brake that shields tumor cells from attack by the body’s immune system.  

“Cancer has a way of tricking the immune system,” Dr. Almubarak, principal investigator of the WVU studies, said. “By interfering with the action of PD-1, BMS-936558 undoes that trick enabling the immune system to fight the cancer.”

Almubarak said there is an additional benefit to these research studies. “When we analyze the tumor samples of these lung cancer patients, we can look for the presence of specific biological markers to determine which patients may benefit from the new drug. This will help us tailor their treatment,” he said.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, claiming 1.3 million deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization.  About half of those diagnosed with early stage lung cancer and who have surgery are likely to see their cancer return and die from the disease within five years.  The overall survival of patients whose lung cancer returns and progresses to a more advanced state has improved little despite the increased number of treatment options available to them.

The two research studies are sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb and are among several lung cancer studies offered through the Clinical Trials Research Unit at the WVU Cancer Center.  For more information on these trials see

The Comprehensive Lung Cancer Program at WVU offers a team approach to providing the best care for patients. Specialists from cardiothoracic surgery, medical oncology, pulmonary medicine, radiation oncology, diagnostic radiology and pathology provide comprehensive consultative services and expedited invasive and noninvasive procedures for the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer with the quality of information enhanced by combined PET/CT imaging.  For more information about the program see
For more information: Amy Johns, Director of Public Affairs, 304-293-7087
ss: 03-05-13