Targeted therapies: New Weapon in The Fight Against Cancer

Armen Hareyan's picture
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(NC) The Canadian Cancer Society reports that, while in general, incidence and death age-standardized rates for the majority of cancer sites have stabilized or declined during the past decade, your risk of getting or dying of cancer has not changed significantly.

Lung cancer is Canada's number one cancer killer. More people will die this year from lung cancer than prostate, breast and colorectal cancers combined. Among women, lung cancer incidence and death rates are on the rise and are three times as high as rates in 1975.

Researchers have begun to fight these grim statistics with a new weapon, called targeted therapies. These medicines block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in carcinogenesis (the process by which normal cells become cancer cells) and tumour growth.

The benefit of targeted therapies is that they attack cancer cells but not healthy cells, offering an advantage over standard chemotherapy and radiation.

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Health Canada has recently granted conditional approval of Iressa as monotherapy (third-line therapy) for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients who have failed both prior platinum-based and docetaxel chemotherapy treatments. A notice of compliance with conditions (NOC/c) provides patients with early market access to promising new drugs for diseases that are serious or life threatening, where the new drug appears to provide benefit over available therapy, or as is the case with Iressa, where no therapy currently exists.

Iressa, a pill taken once daily, is one of a growing number of drugs, which binds to an enzyme called the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR, and turns it off. This enzyme, which is common in many kinds of cancer, acts as a switch that tells cells to divide and spread without dying.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. In 2004 an estimated 21,700 new cases of lung cancer will be reported in Canada and approximately 18,900 people will die.

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- News Canada

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