Monday, April 21, 2014

CANCER - Gene Discoveries Path to New Drugs

"New clinical trials underway for advanced lung cancer patients" PBS NewsHour 4/19/2014


HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Another medical story that caught our attention this week.  Word of what’s described as a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer.  What’s novel is not necessarily the drugs being used, but how many and how they’re being targeted.  Dr. Mark Kris, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, joins us.  So what are they doing in the U.K. with this clinical trial?  What’s so interesting about it?

DR. MARK KRIS, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center:  They are taking a discovery that was made here almost ten years ago now where specific genes are damaged in lung tumors.  And the damage brought on by those genes makes those cancer cells very susceptible to medications.  So if you find one of these genetic changes and give a patient a drug targeting that, almost surely their cancer will shrink and normal tissues are not affected.  I mean it’s exactly what oncologists hope to do.  What they’re doing now in the U.K. is developing a nationwide program partnering with pharmaceutical companies that are developers of these drugs to do the testing in a much more generalized way and to test for many of these different gene mutations at the same time.  So in essence a patient might have ten chances to find something in the tumor that’s in their body.  Ten chances to get a medication.  And also the pharmaceutical companies supplying drugs to go along with the discovery of those genetic markers and help individual patients.

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