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Cancer Matters Home Research 2017 in Review: Advances in Cancer Science and Medicine

2017 in Review: Advances in Cancer Science and Medicine

Here are our picks for the top stories:

Mismatch Is Ideal Match for Immunotherapy: Our top pick was also selected by the New York Times as one of 17 things that happened for the first time in 2017. Ludwig Center and Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy investigators linked a DNA spell-checklike error, known as mismatch repair deficiency, to response to immunotherapy, leading to FDA approval of the drug pembrolizumab for patients whose cancers contain this genetic repair defect. It is the first time a drug has been approved based on a specific genetic profile without regard to where in the body the cancer started. Dung Le, M.D., led the clinical trial that prompted the FDA approval. Read more.

Lung Cancer Patients Beating the Odds: Kimmel Cancer Center and Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute lung cancer experts led the clinical trial that produced the data used to earn the FDA approval for the immunotherapies nivolumab and prembrolizumab. “These results represent a landmark in the history of immunotherapy in cancer. Results showed immunotherapy could be used to treat common cancers and brought it out of the realm of specialized treatment into the broader realm of oncology. Nivolumab has produced the longest follow-up to date of an immune checkpoint inhibitor. Five-year overall survival quadrupled in nonsmall-cell lung cancer, compared with what we would expect from chemotherapy,” says Julie Brahmer, M.D., director of the Thoracic Center of Excellence. Read more.

Standouts at AACR Meeting: Kimmel Cancer Center researchers received top honors at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting and cancer center deputy director Elizabeth Jaffee, M.D., was named president elect of AACR.  Read more.

Pediatric Oncology Leads Precision Medicine Approach for Sarcoma: Pediatric Oncology researchers are translating laboratory research on signaling pathways into a clinical trial. Certain mutations in signaling pathways give cancer cells escape routes that contribute to treatment resistance. This may be at play in a small subset of sarcomas and other pediatric cancers. A clinical trial of a drug called trametinib that targets key mutations in these signaling pathways to cut off cancer’s escape routes. Drawing upon the Kimmel Cancer Center’s leadership in cancer gene discovery, the researchers will use precision medicine techniques to select patients whose tumors contain the genetic signature that predicts for cancers most likely to respond to the drug. Read more.

Radiation Oncology Researcher Finds Unexpected Cancer Target: Marikki Laiho, M.D., Ph.D., developed a drug that goes after a type of cellular machinery called POL 1. It is fundamentally important for every cell, so until her discovery, it was not considered an actionable target for cancer therapy. Laiho proved that cancer cells rely on it more than normal cells, so it was possible to interfere with the pathway without causing excessive damage to normal cells. The drug, called BMH-21, which targets POL 1, could be translated into a new treatment in a little over a year. In ongoing laboratory and animal studies, the drug functioned better against cancer cells than many FDA-approved cancer drugs. Read more.

Random Nature of Cancer Revealed: A new study, found that random, unpredictable DNA copying “mistakes” account for nearly two-thirds of the mutations that cause cancer. The research is grounded on a novel mathematical model based on DNA sequencing and epidemiologic data from around the world. Read more.

Read all of the Kimmel Cancer Center news for 2017.

Find all of the year’s publications.