Medical Minute: Cancer Treatments

With new cancer drugs constantly emerging, there's increasing concern in determining which patients will respond best to which drugs. Now, researchers say genes are bringing us one step closer to finding the answer.

Fighting lung cancer took more than the support of friends and family for Susan Nelson. It also took surgery and the right medication. For her, that right medication was the drug Iressa.

"And it not only has diminished tumors, but it has also allowed me so much more comfort, physically, than what I was dealing with before," says Susan Nelson.

Iressa is a lung cancer drug that works well in certain patients. Trouble is, only ten to twelve percent of patients respond. Now, doctors hope to know who will.

"In cancer, you get one or two shots on goal, and the hope is that you can get the right drugs in the right patients," says Dr. David Agus.

Dr. David Agus knows Iressa only works on a certain strain of lung cancer, so he did some genetic detective work.

"We could start to identify a pattern of genes that correlates to response, or to non-response, and the hope is then we could start to guide therapy in the appropriate patients."

There is not yet a test for cancer patients to take before being prescribed their medication, but the research may lead to one in the near future.

"As cancer patients, you get so used to the ups and downs, the ebb and flow, and you also get so used to negative news or limbo. This will at least give answers more quickly."

And do away with time wasted on a treatment that won't work.

For more information, contact:

Elise Faulk, Administrative Svs. Assoc.
Cedars-Sinai Prostate Cancer Center
8631 West Third Street
Suite 1001e
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 423-4193
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