Promising new cancer treatment tested in NL

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A promising new cancer therapy is going to be tested for the first time in the world at the Dutch Cancer Institute Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital (NKI-AVL) in Amsterdam.  The trial testing of the combination therapy will be done on outpatients with intestinal, lung, and pancreatic cancer. They will receive two medicines, which work together to block the most important survival routes of cancer cells. The treatment is based on laboratory research done by molecular geneticist and cancer researcher René Bernards, who has published his work in Cell Reports on Friday.

He discovered that combining two existing medicines fight tumors very effectively. His research was done on animals as well as human cell lines. These hospital trials will determine whether the treatment works with patients as well. Combination therapy is used more and more as a personal cancer treatment. Genetic deviations of the tumor are mapped, after which it is battled with precision medicine. The new treatment targets patients with a mutation in a specific gene, the so-called KRAS gene. With 90 percent of pancreatic cancer patients and 30 percent of lung and intestinal cancer patients, the tumor has that KRAS mutation. Antoni van Leeuwenhoek started with combination therapy on outpatients with intestinal cancer with a different mutation, the BRAF gene. That treatment is successful according to internist oncologist Jan Schellens, leader of the clinical research. "The growth of the tumor is slowing down spectacularly, that is wonderful to see. The effect is so consistent." Schellens believes this combination therapy, specifically the deceleration therapy, will soon become the standard treatment in hospitals as it seems to be the most powerful cancer-fighting medicinal therapy yet in the laboratory. The two medicines being combined have been separately researched, Schellens says. The safety of the combination must still be studied. The only problem is that the medicine causes intestinal complaints. The question is if this also happens in combination, and if they will then still be administered to the patients, Bernards says. For the two decelerators, there are alternatives with other pharmaceuticals, which might give solace in that case.

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