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Oncologist. 2005 Jan;10(1):22-33.

Emerging role of rexinoids in non-small cell lung cancer: focus on bexarotene.

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  • 1Comprehensive Thoracic Oncology Program, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, One Medical Center Drive, Lebanon, New Hampshire 03756, USA.


Although the introduction of third-generation antineoplastic agents in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer has led to modest improvements in overall patient survival, lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, and improved therapies are needed. Retinoids play a critical role in the regulation of cell division, growth, differentiation, and proliferation, and they represent an exciting new avenue for targeted therapy. Several synthetic retinoids that bind to retinoic acid receptors are currently being investigated in a variety of tumor types. However, many of these agents have been associated with cheilitis, skin reactions, severe headache, and hypertriglyceridemia. Synthetic agents that bind specifically to retinoid X receptors are called rexinoids. Bexarotene (Targretin; Ligand Pharmaceuticals; San Diego, CA; is a novel, multitargeted synthetic rexinoid that is currently being investigated in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. Phase I and II studies have demonstrated that bexarotene is safe and well tolerated in this patient population either alone or in combination with chemotherapeutic agents. Patients treated with bexarotene experience manageable adverse events at reduced levels compared with retinoic acid receptor-specific retinoids. Bexarotene in combination with chemotherapeutic agents has demonstrated an encouraging median survival for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer compared with historical results with combination chemotherapy alone. Two phase III trials are currently under way to fully characterize the role of bexarotene in the treatment of this disease. The purpose of this review is to explore the rationale for rexinoids in the treatment of malignancies and to discuss the clinical profile of bexarotene in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.

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