Turning Cancer into a Manageable Disease

Colorectal cancer resistance process explored

(RxWiki News) Some cancers can be eliminated, while some can be put into remission. Others can become like chronic diseases that are managed with medication. One researcher sees the latter group growing in the near future.

After uncovering new clues as to why colorectal cancer becomes resistant to targeted drug therapies, researchers believe that multiple drugs can be used to make cancer a manageable disease.

"At 50, have some type of colon cancer screening."

Martin Nowak, a Harvard professor of mathematics and of biology, believes the key to managing cancer is changing the way clinicians view and battle the disease.

He believes that instead of a single targeted agent being used, a "cocktail" approach is needed, such as the one used to treat HIV.

Nowak and colleagues came to this conclusion after studying why the active KRAS gene in colorectal cancers makes existing targeted therapies useless after a while.

This research suggests that about one in a million cells in a cancer tumor is resistant to targeted therapies. The drugs wipe out the non-resistant cells, leaving the few resistant soldiers to take over and reestablish the cancer.

What's the strategy? Pretty simple, according to Nowak, who believes that not one but at least two targeted therapies need to be used to treat cancer.

To accomplish this, hundreds of new drugs will be have to be developed, he says. But once these drugs are available, the views and treatment of cancer will be changed dramatically.

"This will be the main avenue for research into cancer treatment, I think, for the next decade and beyond," Nowak said. "As more and more drugs are developed for targeted therapy, I think we will see a revolution in the treatment of cancer."

This research was published June 13 in Nature.

Several of the authors have financial relationships with companies that are exploring cancer genetics and providing testing services - Personal Genome Diagnostics and Inostics.

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Review Date: 
July 13, 2012