UK & World News

  • 17 April 2014, 9:11

Cancer Patients To Test Personalised Drugs

A unique new trial could bring hope to thousands of lung cancer patients in the UK by targeting their tumours with more personalised medication.

Cancer Research UK is teaming up with pharmaceutical companies and the NHS to launch the "National Lung Matrix" trial this summer.

When a patient is diagnosed a sample of their tumour will be analysed by researchers to establish its genetic makeup and mutations.

The patient could then be given the opportunity to try out a specific drug designed to target their type of cancer.

Over the course of the trial up to 14 different medicines will be tested from pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

Clinical trials usually involve one type of medication.

Speaking to Sky News, Professor Peter Johnson, Chief Clinician for Cancer Research UK, said the amazing advancements in molecular testing mean we now know a lot more about how different types of cancer develop.

"The reason this is exciting for patients with lung cancer is that really for the first time we're able to look at their cancers and screen them for a whole variety of molecular changes as the cancer has developed.

"Then we can say to them this is a treatment we think will be effective for you if chemotherapy hasn't worked.

"So instead of just having a conversation about one type of treatment at a time we now have a whole panel of drugs coming through into testing, and in this way we hope we can make progress much faster."

The drugs will first be tried out on a small group of patients, with researchers looking for signs of improvement, such as increased survival and tumour shrinkage.

Medicines that show promise will then be tried out on a larger number of patients.

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the UK, but the deadliest. Around 42,000 people are diagnosed every year, but over two-thirds find out at a stage when it is too late for them to be offered treatment that could cure them.

Fewer than 10% of people diagnosed with lung cancer survive for at least five years after diagnosis.

Dr Harpul Kumar, Chief Executive for Cancer Research UK, told Sky News this new clinical trial could rewrite the rule book on how research into new drugs is carried out.

He said: "This is a very important step forward in the fight against cancer.

"We know that every patient's cancer is unique, so we're moving away from a 'one size fits all' approach and striving for more personalised treatment.

"Critically we are shifting the emphasis from designing a trial around a specific drug, to designing it around selecting from a range of drugs for a specific patient.

"We could hope that within a couple of years we'll be talking about this type of approach in many forms of the disease."

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