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Major government cancer study will test precision, gene-targeting medicine




Dr. Christian Hinrichs, assistant clinical investigator at the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute, works in his lab where he helped develop advanced, cutting-edge procedures to cure 2 women of a rare form of cervical cancer, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, May 29, 2014.
Dr. Christian Hinrichs, assistant clinical investigator at the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute, works in his lab where he helped develop advanced, cutting-edge procedures to cure 2 women of a rare form of cervical cancer, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, May 29, 2014.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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The federal government is launching a very different kind of cancer study that will assign patients drugs based on what genes drive their tumors rather than the site of tumor origin.

The National Cancer Institute's NCI-MATCH (Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice) trial will be a precision medicine experiment at more than 2,400 sites around the country. Starting in July, about 3,000 patients, whose other treatments have failed, will have their tumor genes sequenced to see what mutations or pathways fuel their disease.

About 1,000 patients whose tumor characteristics most closely match one of the 20 or so gene-targeting drugs offered in the study will be put into groups of about 30 patients to get that drug. "The goal is really to try to get the information faster, so when we see responses we can expand rapidly" and offer the drug more widely, said Dr. Douglas Lowy, M.D., the Cancer Institute's acting director.

Details of the study were revealed Monday at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago. NCI is working in conjunction with the Food & Drug Administration to ensure successful drugs will be approved.

With files from the Associated Press.

Guests:

Dr. Douglas Lowy, MD, Acting Director, National Cancer Institute - the federal government's principal agency for cancer research and training.

Dr. Lee Rosen, MD, Health Sciences Clinical Professor of Medicine with a specialty in experimental therapy, UCLA Division of Hematology-Oncology; Dr. Rosen practices at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica