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Published on April 04, 2011

Clinical Trial in Colorado Helping State Senator Fight Lung Cancer

AURORA, Colo. - Washington State Senator Andy Hill was initially diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2009.  Several months after his initial therapy, Sen. Hill developed stage IV (metastatic) lung cancer and was referred to the University of Colorado Thoracic Oncology Program.

Molecular profiling of Sen. Hill’s tumor identified a specific molecular abnormality called an ALK gene rearrangement that was driving his cancer. ALK gene rearrangements occur in about 1 in 20 lung cancers. At that time, a specific ALK inhibitor (crizotinib or PF-02341066) was being explored in clinical trials at seven centers around the world, including University of Colorado.

Anschutz Cancer Pavilion

The Anschutz Cancer Pavilion at UCH.

Sen. Hill has family connections in Colorado and it was most convenient for him to gain access to crizotinib by enrolling in a clinical trial at University of Colorado Hospital (UCH). He started on the crizotinib pills in October 2009 and has responded extremely well to the treatment. About 15 months later, there is still no evidence of active cancer on his scans. The treatment is not considered a cure, as Sen. Hill must continue to take the tablets to control his cancer.

Identifying molecular abnormalities to develop targeted treatments

Although advanced lung cancer has traditionally been associated with a very poor prognosis, fortunately examples of such successes are slowly becoming more common. Sen. Hill’s case reveals the potential to achieve excellent control of advanced lung cancer through increased understanding of what is driving an individual’s cancer and seeking out the best treatment for that individual, often using novel treatments only available within clinical trials. ALK gene rearrangements are only one of an increasingly long list of recognized molecular abnormalities being identified in lung and other cancers, each of which may need a different, specific treatment to achieve maximal control.

The University of Colorado’s Thoracic Oncology Program is world renowned for its leading edge treatment of lung cancer. The program includes a multidisciplinary team of specialists and subspecialists working together to establish the best treatment plan for each patient. Advanced molecular profiling of a patient’s tumor, combined with an extensive array of standard and experimental treatments available through clinical trials, has led to major advances in patient outcomes in the last few years. The program’s one-year survival rates for advanced lung cancer consistently run twice as high as the national average. The survival rates at five years run four times higher than the national average. 

University of Colorado a consortium lead site

University of Colorado is the lead site for the national Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium, the collaboration of 14 of the nation’s elite lung cancer programs. The consortium is profiling ten different molecular abnormalities in lung cancer and pairing them with specific experimental treatments over the next few years.

For an appointment, please call Tiffany Caudill, intake coordinator for the program at 720-848-0392 or email

To request interviews with University of Colorado physicians, please call Erika Matich at 720-848-7852 or email

Clinical trials

Crizotinib clinical trials

Crizotinib is currently being studied in clinical trials for ALK-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Pfizer has initiated the rolling submission of a New Drug Application (NDA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for crizotinib (PF-02341066), an oral first-in-class anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) inhibitor for the treatment of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors are ALK-positive. Pfizer expects to complete the submission in the first half of 2011.

To find out more information about clinical trial sites, contact the Pfizer Oncology Clinical Trials Information Service: call 1-877-369-9753 (US/Canada) or 1-646-277-4066 (international), email or visit

University of Colorado Hospital is the Rocky Mountain region's leading academic medical center. It is ranked among the top 10 academic medical centers in the United States by the University HealthSystem Consortium  and is ranked as one of the country’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is best known as an innovator in patient care and often as one of the first hospitals to bring new medicine to patients’ bedsides. Based on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo., the hospital’s physicians are affiliated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, part of the University of Colorado system.  

Contact: Erika Matich, 720-848-7852 or email

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