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A Path To Beating Cancer

  November, 16 2005 10:59
your information resource in human molecular genetics
Although medical research has offered up promising drugs against cancer in recent years, these treatments still prove unsuccessful in many patients. Better profiling of tumours might help to promote more targeted and effective treatment regimes in the future, and two studies published online by Nature this week report promising developments in this direction.

In the first paper, Joseph Nevins and his colleagues studied gene expression patterns that reflect the activation of various oncogenic (cancer-causing) signal transduction pathways. Using combinations of these pathway signatures, they were able to predict which patients with breast, ovarian or lung cancer had a particularly poor prognosis The authors also describe how the ability to identify which molecular pathways are deregulated in a cancer might be used to predict its sensitivity to specific therapeutic drugs. This approach could one day help doctors choose drugs that match the molecular features of a specific tumour.

Further insight into how anti-cancer drugs can be tailored to match the genetic makeup of a cancer comes from a paper by Neal Rosen and colleagues. Mutated versions of the RAS and BRAF genes are thought to cause cancer at least in part by activating a common enzyme pathway. But Rosen and his team found that only tumours with the BRAF mutation are highly sensitive to a drug that inhibits this pathway. They suggest that testing patients for the presence of BRAF mutations may allow doctors to identify those patients most likely to benefit from this drug.

Authors contacts:

Joseph Nevins (Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA)
E-mail: J.Nevins@duke.edu
Abstract available online: Paper No. [1].

Neal Rosen (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA)
E-mail: rosenn@mskcc.org
Abstract available online: Paper No. [2].

(C) Nature press release.

Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza

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