US launches largest trial of precision medicine in cancer

cancerThe United States launched the largest clinical trial of its kind Monday aimed at studying targeted therapies for cancer based on the genetic traits of tumors, a field known as precision medicine.

The US National Cancer Institute plans to enroll about 1,000 patients beginning in July, experts said at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.

“This is the largest and most rigorous precision oncology trial in history,” said James Doroshow, deputy director of the National Cancer Institute, during a press conference at ASCO.

Rather than treating cancer based on its location — whether breast, colon, lung or otherwise — the approach consists of identifying the molecular anomalies of different cancers in order to determine the best treatments for each individual.

For example, a patient with lung cancer might be best treated with a medicine typically used for another kind of cancer, such as breast cancer, if the tumors share a similar mutation.

The project was described in broad strokes by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address in January.

The promise of precision medicine is that it may someday lead to more effective treatments and shorter clinical trials for the some 200 different types of tumors known today.

The trial’s name is NCI-MATCH: Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice.

Researchers will refer to an arsenal of more than 20 different study drugs or drug combinations, “each targeting a specific gene mutation, in order to match each patient in the trial with a therapy that targets a molecular abnormality in their tumor,” said a statement from the NCI.

Those eligible to enroll include adults 18 years or older with solid tumors or lymphomas that have advanced despite at least one form of standard therapy.

Subjects could also include people with tumors who have no standard treatment.

At least a quarter of those enrolled must be people with rare forms of cancer.

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