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Matching Tumor Types to Drugs Boosts Lung Cancer Outcomes
Date:4/18/2010

First such trial finds better control of disease when chemo is targeted to specific 'molecular signatures'

SUNDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- The number one cancer killer, lung cancer, may be more susceptible to treatment when doctors match up targeted drugs to tumors with key genetic traits, a new study finds.

The study -- the first of its kind -- found that, overall, 46 percent of patients with stage IV (advanced) non-small cell lung cancer gained control of their disease (a measure of overall survival) within two months of treatment when doctors matched chemotherapy to tumor biomarkers, compared to the 30 percent seen when patients were treated in the usual way.

The finding "is an important step toward personalized medicine and marks a paradigm shift for clinical trials by demonstrating the feasibility of a biopsy-based, hypothesis-driven biomarker trial," study co-principal investigator Dr. Roy Herbst, professor of thoracic/head and neck medical oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said in a university news release.

The findings were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in Washington, D.C.

According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, lung cancer claimed almost 160,000 American lives in 2009 alone. The disease is notoriously tough to treat and only incremental advances have been made over the past few decades.

However, the new trial suggests that a "personalized" approach -- where doctors biopsy the patient's tumor, look for key "molecular signatures" and then pick a drug they believe can target that genetic anomaly -- could be a major advance in extending patient survival.

In the trial, doctors sampled the tumors of 255 patients. They were looking for mutations known to affect lung cancer cell growth, such as those in genes known as KRAS or EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor), a signaling
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