Two designer cancer drugs of limited use, scientists find

August 17, 2005|By NEWSDAY

NEW YORK - In a head-to-head test of two designer cancer medications, researchers say they are now certain that neither of these drugs nor similar ones will have universal applications for lung cancer patients.

The discovery by scientists at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston adds yet another chapter to the unfinished - and disappointing - story about several designer cancer drugs, which burst onto the scene with great fanfare but have left many cancer patients without hope.

Iressa and Erbitux are members of the class of drugs popularly called targeted therapies. Iressa was designed for lung cancer; Erbitux for colorectal malignancies. Both drugs are more formally known as "epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors" designed for one specific use: blocking the activity of a single molecule that causes cancer cells to grow uncontrollably.

Last year, it was discovered that Iressa treats only a minority of patients who possess a specific genetic mutation that enhances the drug's activity.

But in a test to see if Erbitux could fill the gap for lung cancer as well as provide another option for people with the mutation, scientists discovered that Erbitux was not effective.

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