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Building on success. Since it was approved in 2003, the Novartis drug Gleevec has been the closest thing to a cure for any cancer. It has transformed chronic myeloid leukemia from a nearly-always fatal disease to one now manageable with a daily pill.
Yet a second-generation drug from Novartis -- Tasigna -- and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Sprycel did even better than Gleevec as initial treatment for those who are newly diagnosed, studies found. Sprycel and Tasigna are used now only when people fail on Gleevec.
New drugs from surprising sources. Eisai Inc.'s eribulin, derived from a sea sponge, improved survival for women with advanced breast cancer and could fill some key treatment gaps.
It comes "at a time when many of us thought there weren't new chemotherapy drugs being developed," because of all the focus on gene-targeting drugs, said Dr. Eric Winer, breast cancer chief at Dana-Farber. "This may be one of the last ones."
More hope that drugs for other conditions also can fight cancer. The Novartis bone-building drug Zometa improved survival for people with multiple myeloma in one study. Earlier research suggested it may help against breast cancer, and results of a definitive test of this are eagerly awaited.
Gentler treatments. More of the drugs being developed today are pills rather than infusions. Shorter, more focused radiation treatments are showing promise. Women need to have fewer lymph nodes removed to check for breast cancer. And new drugs have eased the nausea and vomiting that have made many cancer patients fear chemotherapy.
One issue is not improving: cost.
Personalized medicine will advance cancer care, said Dr. John Mendelsohn, president of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and head of a recent government panel on cancer research. But it will not be cheap, he said.
Cancer meeting: http://www.asco.org/
National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov/
American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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