Genetically targeted cancer treatments are more effective, study finds

Innovative tumor-based therapies based on their genetic identity card, not their general category, significantly improve survival time over traditional treatments, according to the largest study ever published.

Not all breast, liver or other cancers are the same. For years, researchers have multiplied the sequencing of tumors, especially those refractory to usual treatments, to find genetic mutations in a particular patient and adapt the drug that will be injected.

These targeted treatments are considered very promising, but it was necessary to confirm statistically that they are more effective. This is what a team of researchers in Texas undertook to do in 2007 with its study named Impact.

The researchers recruited 3,743 patients treated at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, from 2007 to 2013. All had advanced cancer, including breast, lung or gastrointestinal. Some had undergone up to 16 treatments.

Of these, 711 received a drug adapted to a genetic mutation identified at home. A second group of 596 patients received a standard protocol, mainly because no genetically adapted treatment was available for their case.

After three years, 15% of those who received targeted molecular therapies were still alive, compared to 7% in the group of patients who received only traditional treatment.

After 10 years, 6% of patients in the target group were alive, compared to 1% in the other group.

“This is the first and largest study showing that treatments tailored to the genetic mutations of tumors in patients with advanced cancer improve survival,” said Catherine Diefenbach, an oncologist at Langone Medical Center, University of Toronto. New York, at a press conference.

She commented on the results of the study, which she did not participate in, and which was published on the second day of the big annual cancer conference in Chicago.

“Before precision medicine, patients were treated according to the type of cancer they had,” the specialist continued. But a patient with breast cancer may have cells that are more genetically similar to lung cancer than to another breast cancer.”

If you treat a cancer only according to its location, you miss all these genetic differences. This method of genetically identifying tumors is […] the future.

Catherine Diefenbach, oncologist

This sequencing, however, is not a miracle cure. On average, targeted therapies increased patient survival by 9 months, compared to 7.3 months for usual treatments. But the method is improving year by year.

“At first, we could only work on one or two genes,” said lead author Professor Apostolia Tsimberidou.

Today, hundreds of mutations can be spotted.

“Ideally, in the future, genetic testing of tumors and DNA testing will become the norm at the time of diagnosis, .which should help patients from the beginning, especially in difficult cancers,” she concluded.

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