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Targeted cancer care to spare thousands of patients chemotherapy

Precision medicine is about finding the right key for the lock, finding out what it is that is driving the tumour, what makes it tick. Prof Roy Herbst

Thousands of cancer patients could be spared chemotherapy every year following significant advances in personalised medicine, experts have said. The “future of cancer treatment” is likely to involve tumour testing which can determine whether gruelling treatments would offer any benefits. It would be a significant move away from the “one size fits all approach” often used for treating cancer, and academics believe it will boost survival rates and prolong patients’ lifespans without the disease progressing.

An upcoming trial at University College London will see 4,500 women who have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer receive personalised medicine. Consultant Dr Robert Stein believes the number of patients in this group who receive chemotherapy will be two-thirds lower than usual, saving the NHS millions of pounds. Instead, targeted drugs designed to bring the cancer under control can be selected – and an earlier study of 13,000 patients saw a significant boost in the number of cases where tumours shrank. Those who received targeted treatments in that trial saw their tumours reduce in size by an average of 30.6%, as opposed to 4.9% in patients who received conventional care.