Alecensa (alectinib) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug administration to treat anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive non-small cell lung cancer, the agency said Friday in a news release. This type of cancer often spreads to the brain.
The pill is sanctioned for instances of worsening disease after patients take a standard therapy called Xalkori (crizotinib), or if they are unable to tolerate Xalkori.
More than 221,000 people in the United States are projected to develop lung cancer this year, and more than 158,000 will die from it, according to the National Cancer Institute. ALK gene mutations are involved in about 5 percent of cases of non-small cell lung cancer, the FDA said.
Alecensa is designed to block the effects of the ALK protein, thereby preventing these cancer cells from growing and spreading.
The most common side effects of the drug are fatigue, constipation, swelling and muscle pain. More serious side effects could include liver problems, life-threatening lung inflammation, slowed heartbeat and severe muscle problems. Users also may be prone to more easily becoming sunburned.
Alecensa is marketed by San Francisco-based Genentec.
Learn more from the FDA.