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Specialised cancer drugs could treat other tumours

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Drugs already available on the NHS could be used to treat a wider range of cancers, research has revealed.

Scientists analysed cancerous cells and found that medicines including trastuzumab (Herceptin), which is currently used to treat breast cancer, could be more widely used.

Other medicines that could potentially be expanded to treat different cancers include the lung cancer drugs gefitinib (Iressa) and erlotinib (Tarceva).

Researchers at the Compendia Bioscience made the discovery after looking at the genes in tumours taken from 4,086 patients. They studied 22 genes that existing therapies targeted and found similarities to other cancer tumours.

They discovered 592 DNA amplifications in 438 cancer patients, suggesting between 5% and 10% of people with cancer may benefit from an existing treatment.

Cancers that could potentially be targeted include specific brain, breast, colon, lung, ovary and pancreatic cancers.

The study was presented at a Berlin conference hosted by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer, National Cancer Institute and the American Association for Cancer Research.

Dr Daniel Rhodes, chief executive officer and co-founder of scientific applications at Compendia Bioscience, led the research. He said: “We caution that we have not demonstrated that the targeted therapies will benefit all cancer patients with a DNA amplification, but we suspect, given past clinical trials and experimental studies, that some DNA amplifications will be predictive of therapeutic benefit for some patients.”

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