In DepthCancer Research

Study homes in on ‘exceptional responders’ to cancer drugs

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Science  27 Nov 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6520, pp. 1020-1021
DOI: 10.1126/science.370.6520.1020

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Summary

Although even the best cancer drugs don't buy much time for most people with advanced cancer, there are rare exceptions: patients whose tumors melt away and who remain healthy years later. Researchers have long dismissed these "exceptional responders" as unexplainable outliers. Now, an effort to systematically study them is yielding data that could help improve cancer treatments. The project, led by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, examined tumor DNA and the immune cells found around or within the cancers in 111 exceptional responders. In 26 of the patients, scientists found clues that may explain why a drug that didn't work for most people shrank the tumors for months or years. The results suggest new drug combinations and highlight the value of conducting genomic tests of patients' tumors in order to customize treatments.

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