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Genetic Makeup of Tumors More Complex Than Thought

New Research Shows ‘Personalized’ Treatment for Cancer Not So ‘Simple’

Evolutionary Trees continued...

Other cancers would have a very short trunk and many branches, perhaps like pancreatic cancer, which is notoriously difficult to treat and has not responded well to any targeted therapies.

Swanton is concerned that some of the newer drugs targeting new mutations will be acting only on the branches, so will not have a big impact on the cancer. "Just because a mutation is there doesn't mean that you are going to see a robust response when you target it," he said.

"This research is going to change the way that we analyze cancers," predicted Peter Johnson, MD, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, who also spoke at the press conference. "We are clearly only at the beginning of this process."

The findings highlight the extreme complexity of cancer genetics, but they also point to a way forward despite this complexity, he said. "They suggest a way to improve the success rate of personalized medicine."

Swanton and several of his co-authors report receiving research grants from Novartis.

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