An experimental cancer drug is proving effective in treating the lung cancers of some patients whose tumors carry a certain genetic mutation, new studies show.
Because the mutation can be present in other forms of cancer including a rare form of sarcoma (cancer of the soft tissue), childhood neuroblastoma (brain tumor), as well as some lymphomas, breast and colon cancers researchers say they are hopeful the drug, crizotinib, will prove effective in treating those cancers as well.
In one study, researchers identified 82 patients from among 1,500 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, the most common type of lung malignancy, whose tumors had a mutation in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene.
Crizotinib targets the ALK “driver kinase,” or protein, blocking its activity and preventing the tumor from growing, explained study co-author Dr. Geoffrey Shapiro, director of the Early Drug Development Center and associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston.
“The cancer cell is actually addicted to the activity of the protein for its growth and survival,” Shapiro said. “It’s totally dependent on it. The idea is that blocking that protein can kill the cancer cell.”
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