News & AnalysisBiomedicine

Rare Cancer Successes Spawn ‘Exceptional’ Research Efforts

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Science  19 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6130, pp. 263
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6130.263

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Most experimental cancer drugs that reach clinical trials fail to help enough patients, and the drugs are shelved. But in many trials, there are the exceptions: a rare patient with advanced cancer whose tumors shrink or even disappear for many months or years. This month, the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced that it is casting a wide net for such "exceptional responders" in hopes of ferreting out genetic or other molecular peculiarities that may explain why a drug sometimes has dramatic beneficial effects in certain patients. NCI also intends to launch a new kind of clinical trial that will genotype a patient's tumor and match it to a potentially effective drug, including experimental drugs that haven't been approved.