Cancer treatments that attack tumors based on their individual genetic traits – not their location in the body – far surpbad traditional methods, extending survival to twice as many patients, a study said on Saturday.
The field of precision therapy targeted medicine involves testing tumors to get clues about their genetic mutations, and matching patients with new drugs designed to block cancer growth at the molecular level.
Researchers in Texas began studying the impact of these therapies in 2007, after seeing the success of Gleevec (imatinib), a revolutionary drug approved by US regulators in 2001 that showed enormous success against chronic myeloid leukemia.
The results of the first and largest precision medicine trials to examine the survival of a number of cancer types and many different targeted therapies were published at the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, the largest annual meeting of the world about cancer.  The study, called IMPACT, enrolled 3,743 patients at the Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center from 2007 to 2013.
All patients had advanced cancers, or "end-stage disease," which included cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, mammary or pulmonary. . Melanoma and cancer of the female reproductive tract were also included, along with rarer types of cancer.
The enrollees had generally tried at least four, and sometimes up to 16, other treatments that failed to stop the growth of their cancer.
Patients receiving molecularly targeted therapies obtained an investigational drug that was then tested in a commercial trial or FDA-approved targeted therapy for another indication.
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After three years, 15 percent of people treated with targeted cancer therapies were alive, compared to seven percent in the non-target group.
After 10 years, six percent of the target group was alive, compared to only one percent in the other group.
It is still far from a cure
In general, targeted therapies resulted in an average of four months of life without cancer progression, known as progression-free survival, and nine additional months of general survival
Those who were treated with traditional approaches lived less than three months without cancer and 7.3 months more in general.
They say the field has grown tremendously since 2007, and that further research will improve the range of therapies available for cancer patients.
"When IMPACT was first opened, we tested for no more than one or two genes," said lead researcher Apostolia Tsimberidou, professor of therapeutic cancer research at MD Anderson.
"Patients are now being evaluated for hundreds of processable genes, amplifications and mutations, as well as immune markers," he added.
"Ideally, in the future, tumor testing of patients and badysis of cell-free DNA will become the standard of care at the time of diagnosis, in the hope of making a difference for patients in advance. , especially in those with difficult-to-treat cancers. "