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Study Shows the Potential of 'Personalized Medicine' for Cancer

Comstock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A new study examined the effects of custom-tailoiring cancer treatments to specific cancers and individual patients, and its findings could change the way doctors and scientists fight the disease.

Personalized medicine is not uncommon in certain cancer specialties such as those involving breast cancers, for example.  There, diagnosed cancers are quickly categorized according to their sensitivity to certain hormones, and patients are allocated to specific therapies based on the personalized profile of their individual disease. 

But this approach is not widespread, and the study authors from the MD Anderson Cancer in Houston set out to prove that maybe it's time that every individual cancer is analyzed and treated according to its own unique, molecular signature.  Maybe it's time to stop thinking about "lung cancer" and “skin cancer," and start identifying them according to their genetic markers regardless of where in the body they crop up.
More than 850 patients with metastatic or inoperable cancers had their tumors screened for specific genetic abnormalities.  Over 350 patients had cancers with known genetic abnormalities, and there are drugs specifically tailored to kill those cancers.  Impressively, the 175 patients who then received targeted therapy showed a 27 percent response rate compared to only eight percent in patients who didn't have their treatment "matched" to their cancer's genetic signature.  

And even though this treatment only prolonged life -- by an average of 6 months -- the senior author of the study said that "this study affirms what we in the cancer community have been talking about for a decade -- matching drugs to patients. The time is now.  The drugs are here."
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio