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New Cancer Drug a Wonder and a Mystery

Posted - Apr. 30, 2004 at 10:20 a.m.



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NEW YORK, Apr 30, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Iressa, a new British-made drug, has given hope to tens of thousands of cancer patients but has been a roll of the dice for others.

In fact, only about one in 10 patients benefit significantly and until now doctors could not predict who would win this rare reprieve.

But, now researchers have determined that people who improve sharply have a genetic mutation in their tumors that makes their disease highly vulnerable to the drug, the New York Times reported Friday.

The discovery represents a crack in the genetic armor of lung cancer, which kills about 160,000 Americans a year, more than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

The findings could allow doctors to better decide when and to whom to give Iressa, the report said.

While Iressa is approved for use after other drugs have failed, some doctors might use it earlier for patients with the mutation, said Dr. Daniel A. Haber, director of the cancer center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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