In DepthScientific Publishing

In a major shift, cancer drugs go ‘tissue-agnostic’

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Science  16 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6343, pp. 1111-1112
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6343.1111

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Since the beginnings of cancer chemotherapy in the 1940s, oncologists have treated patients with drugs based on the organ or tissue where their tumors originated. Colon cancer requires different drug regimens than lung, breast, or skin cancer. But in May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the first time allowed the use of an existing approved drug, Keytruda, to treat any solid tumor bearing a specific genetic marker. Now, another drug, larotrectinib, looks likely to become the second approved tissue-agnostic drug by next year, and others are making their way through clinical trials. "It's a sign of the times," says Alice Shaw, director of thoracic oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "The molecular biology of the tumor is really leading the way over the tissue of origin."

  • * Ken Garber is a science journalist in Ann Arbor, Michigan.