Magazine article Drug Topics

Advances in Immunology Helping to Increase Survival

Magazine article Drug Topics

Advances in Immunology Helping to Increase Survival

Article excerpt

Genetics has a big role in several new drug therapies that show promising results against cancer. As the drugs are implemented, researchers expect to see a dramatic drop in the number of Americans afflicted with the deadly disease by 2015.

"Advances in immunology have opened the door to both cancer prevention and cancer therapy through the use of vaccines," said Harmon Eyre, M.D., executive v.p. for research and medical affairs for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. He outlined the latest scientific advances in vaccines, chemoprevention, monoclonal antibodies, rational drug design, and angiogenesis inhibitors at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians in Orlando last month. While cancer is still the disease most feared by the majority of Americans, mortality rates are declining. From 1990 to 1996, cancer death rates dropped 0.6%, Eyre said.

Moreover, he noted, new developments in cancer therapy and early detection have had a significant impact on the five-year survival rate. While significant increases continue in non-Hodgkin's lymphomas and female lung cancer, decreases are occurring in cancers of the lung, colon/rectum, breast, prostate, pancreas, brain, and stomach. The decline in most cancers may be attributed, in part, to better diet, exercise, early detection.

Genetic testing will play a large role in identifying hereditary cancer syndromes. "The most highly visible genetic testing involves hereditary breast cancer," Eyre said. "Interventions are available for the identified gene carriers; physicians should identify individuals in high-risk families based on the number and age at onset of cancer of first-degree relatives."

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Mass., said clinical trials showed that its drug Incel helped restore tumor sensitivity to chemotherapy in some patients who had failed prior treatment with doxorubicin. "The data suggest that Incel, an inhibitor of multidrug resistance, may have a significant effect in some difficult-to-treat cancer patients," said Vivien Bramwell, M.D., head of the study at the London Regional Cancer Centre, Ontario, Canada.

A long-used vaccine for hepatitis B, the major cause of liver cancer, is opening the door for cancer prevention. …

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