ASCO 2019: Moving Beyond Tumor Type to Tumor Agnostic Treatment

Until recently, drug discovery has traditionally focused on the development of a therapy to treat a specific tumor type based on the origin of the cancer, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer and brain cancer. While the drug development process continues to reflect this approach, the emergence of new insights into the biology of cancer cells has revealed cancer cells have molecular characteristics that are not unique to the origin of the cancer. Meaning, the genetic make-up of colon cancer could have some of the same molecular attributes of a brain tumor.

The discovery of cancer biomarkers has expanded the research paradigm for cancer.

The discovery of cancer biomarkers has expanded the research paradigm for cancer. Scientists are learning investigative medical treatments no longer need to be dependent upon tumor site (e.g., colon, breast, brain), but rather the molecular make-up of cancer cells.

This evolving approach in drug discovery creates an opportunity for the future of brain tumor research. With brain tumor research often overlooked and underfunded, this new approach to drug discovery will allow the research community to evaluate an investigative therapy across multiple tumor types based on a common genetic target, triggering an increase in brain tumor research. It is important to note that while some therapies may be used across multiple tumor types, brain tumors still pose unique challenges that other tumors don’t, such as the blood-brain barrier and a severely compromised immune system. These unique factors could make some therapies relatively ineffective in brain tumor treatment even if the drug target is present.


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