As a non-smoker, Glenn Mitchell was shocked to be diagnosed with lung cancer but after just two months of taking an experimental new drug, his lung tumors had shrunk and in some cases disappeared completely.
"I expected the drug to work but not in four weeks," said Mitchell.
He's one of more than 100 patients testing an experimental drug called Crizotinib. It targets a specific tumor cell abnormality - the switch that turns on and off the cancer growth.
"The cancer cells - for them to grow and multiply and spread to other parts of the body constantly require certain signals to be on, and this drug turns off the switch," explained Dr. Suresh Ramalingham.
In recent studies more than half the patients taking the experimental drug had tumor shrinkage or major change in their cancer.
"This is a breakthrough," said Mitchell. "I just hope it will help others too."
Researchers said the best candidates for the drug are non-small cell cancer patients who were also non-smokers. Once patients start taking the drugs they must continue to take them for the rest of their life.