A pill designed to zero in on abnormal genes that drive specific cancers has produced encouraging early results in children with an uncommon but aggressive type of lymphoma, as well as in children with a rare form of neuroblastoma.
A phase 1 clinical trial of the drug crizotinib achieved remissions, with minimal side effects, for 10 of the children participating in a clinical study carried out by the multicenter Children’s Oncology Group (COG). The results were “an exciting proof-of-principle” for the targeted treatment, said the study leader, Yaël P. Mossé, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“We are entering a new era of cancer therapy, in which we use knowledge of basic biology to design very specific drugs that target cancer cells with potentially less side effects on healthy tissue,” said Mossé. “In addition, as we concentrate on targets in molecular pathways, we move away from an exclusive focus on one form of cancer to customizing treatments according to biological activity. Abnormal ALK activity occurs in subtypes of neuroblastoma and subtypes of lymphoma, so identifying ALK activity in individual patients may enable us to provide the most effective care.”
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