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More Targeted Treatments Key to Progress in War on Cancer: Report
Date:11/4/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- More targeted treatments and streamlining clinical trials are among the keys to speeding the pace of progress in finding more effective cancer treatments, a new report says.

On Thursday, the eve of the 40th anniversary of President Nixon's "War on Cancer," the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released a report which pinpoints specific areas that need improvement to advance the cause of "personalized" cancer care.

"If we begin to make the needed changes, we believe that cancer research and patient care can become more targeted, more efficient and more effective," Dr. Neal Meropol, one of the three executive editors of the report, said at a teleconference. "We have a clear opportunity to accelerate the path of progress."

Tremendous progress has been made against cancer since President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act in December 1971, said ASCO President Dr. Michael Link. That includes a record number of cancer survivors, a childhood cancer cure rate of 80 percent and a drop in death rates for many types of cancer.

Still, said Link, a pediatric oncologist at Stanford University, "We have a long way to go."

Researchers have learned that certain cancer drugs work very well in one person, but not in another because of differences in the genetic makeup of the tumor, among other factors. Far more needs to be learned about the molecular pathways and biomarkers that determine who will response best to a particular therapy, and how to best identify those patients.

In one scenario outlined in the report: an oncologist tells a patient he has kidney cancer. Instead of determining treatment based on where the tumor is located, the oncologist runs a genetic test on the patient and the molecular characteristics of the tumor to determine how likely the cancer is to spread, and which of the available medications will work
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