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Tests Could Predict Benefit From Cancer Drugs
Date:10/29/2008

Markers in blood or tumor tissue may help those fighting colon, lung or pancreatic malignancies

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- What if a blood test or biopsy could predict if a cancer therapy will help cure you, or only make you feel worse?

Tests like these, based on genes, proteins or other "molecular markers" may someday do just that for people battling colon, lung and pancreatic tumors, scientists reported at a news conference Tuesday.

"The ultimate goal is to bring personalized medicine to reality, to identify characteristics of tumors or patients where we can make a relatively dramatic impact using targeted agents," said Dr. Bruce Johnson of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

Johnson moderated the teleconference, sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The briefing focused on research being presented at the second annual meeting on Molecular Markers in Cancer, which will take place Oct. 30 through Nov. 1 in Hollywood, Fla. The meeting is co-sponsored by ASCO, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer.

First up, colon cancer. Researchers pooled data from four clinical trials involving 715 patients. They confirmed that the cancer drug Vectibix (panitumumab) was only successful in treating advanced colorectal cancer in patients with the normal ("wild type") form of the KRAS gene -- not a mutated version.

Vectibix blocks the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) on cancer cells.

The patient response rate to Vectibix was 14 percent if they carried the normal KRAS gene, but that rate sank to zero if the patient had a mutated form of the gene, said study lead author Daniel Freeman, a principal scientist in oncology research at Amgen Inc., which makes the drug.

Progression-free survival (3.3 months versus 1.7 months) and overall survival (8.3 m
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