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Cancer Medicine Advances on Many Fronts
Date:12/23/2008

New drug approvals, more targeted therapies the highlights of 2008

TUESDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- The war against cancer gathered steam in 2008, as new drugs tackled the toughest cancers with some success, and advances were made in both disease prevention and risk factor identification.

A new report from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) details 12 "major" advances and 19 "notable advances" across the gamut of cancer prevention, screening, treatment and survival in the past year.

"These specific advances . . . reflect a maturation, if you will, of the whole approach of personalized medicine to oncology care," said ASCO President Dr. Richard L. Schilsky, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "And some of the reports deal with targeted therapies being used in a broader array of diseases. We're beginning to see the utility of targeted therapies expand across many, many diseases, and we're increasingly able to identify those patients who are most likely to benefit from those targeted therapies."

The report was expected to be published online Dec. 22 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

One of the most impressive reports of the year serves as a backdrop to these advances, pointed out Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La. That was a study showing the first reported decline in the number of U.S. men and women developing and dying from cancer.

Nevertheless, some 1.4 million people received the devastating diagnosis of cancer in 2008, and half a million people died from the disease.

Following are the 12 major advances of 2008 identified by ASCO, divided into six general areas and not ranked in order of importance.

In the area of hard-to-treat cancers:

  • Cetuximab (Erbitux), a monoclonal antibody, when added to chemotherapy, increased overall survival by
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