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Cancer Group Lists Top Treatment Advances for 2005
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That was the conclusion of the first-ever annual report on clinical cancer research by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which was released Friday.
"The take-home message is that we are making steady progress in the management of a wide variety of cancers," ASCO President Dr. Sandra J. Horning told HealthDay at a news briefing in New York City.
"Many of the advances that we described in the report are currently being applied to newly diagnosed cancer patients," Horning said. Others aren't immediately available, "but look extremely promising," she added.
The ASCO report focuses on treatments, not basic science, and was drawn up by a group of 21 experts who reviewed data from studies published in major journals between November 2004 and October 2005.
Their list of the most important breakthroughs includes:
Other notable advances included the success of the drug oxaliplatin in fighting colon cancer recurrence; the use of Rituxan and Bexxar combination therapy against B-cell lymphomas; Revlimid's success in treating killer bone marrow disorders called myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS); the use of temozolomide in boosting brain tumor survival; and the success of the drug Erbitux against head and neck cancers, the researchers said.
Many of these drugs fall into the category of "targeted" therapies, in which treatments are tailored to fight specific cancer types and used in patients with specific genetic or immunological profiles.
"This is what we call the 'individualization' of cancer therapy," Horning said. "We're moving toward tailoring treatment for patients, based on a knowledge of their individual tumor and also their genetic predisposition to [drug] toxicity."
But even though research continues to bear fruit every year, some of these drugs come with a high price tag. In fact, a study released earlier this week found that one year's supply of Herceptin could cost $40,000 per patient.
"It's true that the newer, targeted therapies are expensive," Horning said. "That's why it's extremely important for us to learn more about how best to use them, to better understand which patients will clearly benefit. For instance, one of the trials included in this report compared [the effectiveness of] one year vs. two years of Herceptin use. It's by addressing these types of questions scientifically that we can get answers on how best to use these drugs."
Expensive and imperfect as many of these therapies might be, real progress is being made against a wide range of malignancies, Horning added.
"This progress has been the result of an investment in research and the dedication of patients and researchers who've participated in clinical trials -- they've brought about these advances," she said.
SOURCES: Sandra J. Horning, M.D., president, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); Roy S. Herbst, M.D., Ph.D., chairman, cancer communications, ASCO; Dec. 2, 2005, news briefing, ASCO New York City
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