2013's highlights against cancer – in doctors' words

December 27, 2013 | by Tami Dennis

Cancer specialists and patients gained new understanding, drugs and hope in 2013, with an array of research advances that promise to offer an edge in the war on cancer in the coming year. Physicians at City of Hope are constantly monitoring these advances so they can quickly bring the newest and best treatments to patients.

cancer cell Progress against cancer took many forms in 2013, from new drug approvals to a greater understanding of tumor growth. Here are some of the highlights, in City of Hope experts' own words. Shown here: A cancer cell.

Here, in their words, are some of the most encouraging developments of the past year:

Lung cancer: Better understanding of tumor growth

“We continue to improve our understanding of the biology that drives lung cancer growth, and by focusing on specific genetic changes within the tumor and activation of the immune system, we are moving toward improved treatments for patients.”

Karen L. Reckamp, M.D., M.S., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program{C}

Prostate cancer: Approval of the drug Alpharadin

“The most important event in prostate cancer in 2013 was the approval of another compound for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer – radioactive isotope Radium-223 [brand name Alpharadin]. This continues a remarkable trend of approval of at least one new drug  per year for prostate cancer over the last several years.”

– Przemyslaw Twardowski, M.D., clinical professor in medical oncology

Cancer in the elderly: Predicting effects of chemotherapy

“We now know that geriatric assessment measures are predictive of the risk of chemotherapy toxicity in older adults with cancer.”

– Arti Hurria, M.D., director of the Cancer and Aging Research Program

Ovarian cancer: Ability to use the immune system to fight disease

“The most important finding in the gynecologic oncology world has been increasing information that suggests that ovarian cancer can respond to immunologic approaches, which has led to the development and activation of a protocol utilizing genetically modified T cells in recurrent ovarian cancer.”

– Robert Morgan, M.D., co-director of the Gynecological Oncology/Peritoneal Malignancy Program

General oncology: Potential to move away from invasive biopsies

“Investigators can now detect tumor-derived oncogenic mutations in circulating DNA from plasma. This was demonstrated for KIT mutations in gastrointestinal stromal tumors with high concordance rate to the primary tumor. Moreover, they can detect secondary mutations, which predict for progression on therapy. These results demonstrate that 'liquid biopsies' from blood may eliminate the need for invasive tumor biopsies in the future.”

Warren A. Chow, M.D., associate professor of molecular pharmacology

Breast cancer: Approval of the drug pertuzumab as a pretherapy

“The approval of pertuzumab in the neoadjuvant setting defines pathologic response as an endpoint in the neoadjuvant setting. This is the first time the FDA has used this endpoint for drug approval. This concept expedites the drug-approval therapy process, which is critical in the era of targeted therapy for breast cancer.”

James Waisman, M.D., clinical professor in medical oncology

"I think the most exciting game changer of the last year is the approval of pertuzumab, in combination of trastuzumab and chemotherapy for the neoadjuvant treatment of breast cancer, based on the dramatic improvement in rate of complete remission and overall survival compared with standard care."

Daphne Stewart, M.D., medical oncologist


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