Cancer and personalized drugs

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Amy Harmon reappears in the NY Times science page this week, with a series on the clinical trials of a targeted cancer drug (“A Roller Coaster Chase for a Cure”).

Dr. Flaherty, who has a near-photographic memory, was not accustomed to rereading. But in his campus office that morning, he scrolled through the article on his computer again to be sure he had understood. The presence of the same B-RAF mutation in so many cancers, he thought, meant it was one of the biggest genetic smoking guns yet identified in cancer. A drug that blocked the protein made by the defective gene might have enormous consequences for patients and he knew of one that just might work.

This is where the “rubber” of personalized medicine “hits the road”, so to speak – if we can find drugs that treat the specific mutations that cause a person’s cancer, then there may be hope in other kinds of interventions targeted to a particular genotype.