For years, we’ve been working on a variety of treatments to combat different kinds of cancers, but some scientists believe we’ve been coming at it from the wrong angle altogether. Rather than treating cancer by the location in which it originated, perhaps we should be paying more attention to the genetic makeup of the cancer and the person who has it.
“Traditionally, we’ve always treated cancers based on where they’re located. We treat lung cancer like lung cancer, breast cancer like breast cancer,” said Dr. Dale Shepard, a medical oncologist with the Cleveland Clinic.
But now a team of researchers has discovered a way to treat cancers based on their genetic makeup. They’ve targeted a specific gene mutation called TRK and developed a drug called Larotrectinib to combat that particular gene, keep the tumor from growing, and even kill it off.
“This is a therapy based on a gene change in the tumor and because we’re using a much more specific way to treat, we get much better responses,” said Dr. Shepard. “We know that if there’s a mutation in that particular protein in that gene, that makes the cells cancerous. If we can block that process, we block the specific cancer.”
Larotrectinib has done well in clinical trials and is being called a breakthrough drug for its success in treating even some of the most severe cases of cancer, such as stage IV metastatic cancers. Many patients even saw their tumors disappear within days of starting treatment.
Another great thing about Larotrectinib is that it doesn’t have to be administered via an IV and doesn’t involve surgery or other uncomfortable procedures. Once doctors have figured out what they’re working with, patients can take their medication twice a day in the form of a simple pill.
And the best part? The drug has just received FDA approval to treat 17 different types of cancer. This is exciting news for cancer patients and doctors around the world!
Patients who have exhausted all other options are great candidates for Larotrectinib, but they’ll first have to undergo testing to see if their cancer has the genetic mutation that the drug targets. Larotrectinib is mostly useful for rare forms of cancer, but it’s also been proven effective in certain types of salivary gland tumors as well as some lung and breast cancers.
Researchers hope their work will pave the way for other studies involving genetic cures for other cancers in the near future. Learn more about this amazing breakthrough treatment in the video below.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?