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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

New Approach to Cancer Treatment: 07/20/2015

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

An innovative research study — recently announced by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) — will treat patients according to the genetic mutations in a tumor rather than the type of cancer they have, or the site where the cancer originated.

In a press release that accompanied the study's launch, NCI explains the research strives to discover the extent a new approach to drug therapy is effective for a person whose tumors have specific gene mutations regardless of a patient's initial cancer diagnosis.

Hence, hypothetically a person with tumor in their lung might be treated with a drug intended to treat another form of cancer — if the patient's DNA tests suggest the medication is effective at countering specific mutations found within his or her tumor.

A recent article about the NCI initiative in the Washington Post explains drugs currently are developed, approved, and prescribed based on the type of cancer diagnosed for a patient, or the location where the cancer was found (such as in one's lungs). In contrast, the new clinical trial, called NCI-MATCH, assesses an alternative approach that searches for medications aimed at specific mutations within tumors, which is part of a broader effort to improve medical treatment called 'precision medicine.'

NCI's acting director, said (and we quote) 'NCI-MATCH is a unique, ground breaking trial, It is the first study in oncology (cancer research) that incorporates all the tenets of precision medicine. There are no other cancer clinical trials of this size and scope that truly bring the promise of targeted treatment to patients whose cancers have specific genetic abnormalities. It holds the potential to transform cancer care' (end of quote).

One of the study's principle researchers added (and we quote): 'In addition to exploring very fundamental aspects of cancer biology and therapy, this trial will bring cutting-edge molecular analysis and a large portfolio of targeted therapy treatment regimens to patients being treated at oncology practices large and small' (end of quote).

The nationwide study (that will be introduced in planned phases with an anticipated 3,000 participants starting this summer) will assess the extent a tumor shrinks over time once a person begins treatment. NCI explains the trial will be considered a success if a tumor shrinks 30 percent or more among 10-25 percent of the patients who receive a recommended medication based on their genetic mutations.

NCI officials also told the Washington Post they currently estimate the cost of the trial will be $30-$40 million over time.

Meanwhile, a guide to targeted cancer therapies (from NCI) is available in the 'treatment' section of MedlinePlus.gov's cancer health topic page.

The American Cancer Society provides a guide to cancer drugs also within the 'treatment' section of MedlinePlus.gov's cancer health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's cancer health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about cancer as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's cancer health topic page type 'cancer' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'cancer (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has more than 200 health topic pages devoted to diverse types of cancers, related treatments, and therapies. We additionally recommend cancer.gov, NCI's recently revised website, for access to extensive cancer information.

While it is difficult to predict the success of NCI's initiative, it is refreshing to see a new approach to cancer treatment as well as a well-orchestrated effort to assess its clinical efficacy. If successful, NCI-MATCH could mean patients will gain faster access to more effective (and already approved) cancer drugs.

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Please email the podcast staff anytime at: NLMDirector@nlm.nih.gov

A written transcript of recent podcasts is available by typing 'To your health' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page.

The National Library of Medicine is one of 27 institutes and centers within the National Institutes of Health. The National Institutes of Health is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!