On the Failure of Lung Cancer Drug Onartuzumab in a Phase III Clinical Trial


Most new cancer drugs fail clinical testing. Because they don’t make it to the pharmacy, we usually hear very little about them. But widespread media coverage made it hard to ignore the recent termination of a trial testing the drug onartuzumab. Details of the story raise concerns about the patient enrollment processes of some clinical trials. Continue reading…


Squamous Lung Cancer ‘Master Protocol’ Brings Cancer Research into the 21st Century


Clinical trials help determine whether new cancer treatments are safe and effective, and they provide access to cutting-edge drugs that patients wouldn’t otherwise be able to have. But the clinical trial system is notoriously inefficient, slow, expensive, and laborious. Now, a new and ambitious clinical trial design called the Lung Cancer Master Protocol seeks to overhaul the system, promising to benefit patients and drug companies alike. Continue reading…


Novartis Revolutionizes Clinical Trials for Targeted Cancer Drugs


Someone had to do it; now it looks like Novartis may be the first. The pharma company’s new series of clinical trials, SIGNATURE (also known as, ‘bring the protocol to the patient,’ or  ‘P2P’), is recruiting patients with different cancers to receive investigational targeted drugs selected to match the distinct genetic changes found in each patient’s tumor. Continue reading…


Immune System-Boosting Treatments Show Long-Sought Successes for Lung Cancer Patients


In the past 2 years, cancer treatments known as immune therapies have become all the rage. However, they have actually been explored for decades, particularly in melanoma, and have produced some notable successes. Now, immune therapies are showing more and more promise for lung cancer. Continue reading…


Compassionate Drug Access: A Real Option for Cancer Patients?


A recent New York Times article tells the story of one woman’s quest to gain access to an experimental drug to treat her deadly cancer. Her story is familiar to many of us who have heard similar tales; a cancer patient runs out of treatment options, but with the help of proactive oncologists is able to receive a new, investigational drug; that is, a drug not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This last-resort treatment approach is known as compassionate use or, as the FDA prefers to call it, expanded access. The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains: Continue reading…


New Prospects for Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients (Part II)


Small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) accounts for about 15% of lung cancers, but it is the deadliest form of lung malignancy. Only 6% of patients with SCLC survive beyond 5 years after diagnosis. In the last few years, new therapies—targeted therapies in particular—have been developed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating other, more common forms of lung cancer such as adenocarcinoma. However, not much progress has been made in addressing SCLC, which is usually treated with a combination of fairly toxic chemotherapeutics and radiotherapy. Many patients respond to these harsh treatments (ie, their tumors shrink), but only transiently. The disease recurs within a few months to 1 year and, at that point, is no longer treatable. Continue reading…


New Prospects for Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients (Part I)


Small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) accounts for about 15% of lung cancers, but it is the deadliest form of lung malignancy. Only 6% of patients with SCLC survive beyond 5 years after diagnosis. In the last few years, new therapies—targeted therapies in particular—have been developed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating other, more common forms of lung cancer such as adenocarcinoma. However, not much progress has been made in addressing SCLC, which is usually treated with a combination of fairly toxic chemotherapeutics and radiotherapy. Many patients respond to these harsh treatments (ie, their tumors shrink), but only transiently. The disease recurs within a few months to 1 year and, at that point, is no longer treatable. Continue reading…


The Cancer Biomarker Problem


In 2008, Dr. Charles Sawyers, currently the president of American Association for Cancer Research, wrote an article for the journal Nature entitled: ‘The Cancer Biomarker Problem.’ This excellent paper clearly explains what cancer biomarkers are, outlines the different categories of biomarkers, and emphasizes how important biomarkers are in the field of targeted therapies. Predictive biomarkers are indispensable tools that should direct the rational use of targeted drugs in cancer patients. There are additional types of biomarkers, including some that could help evaluate the course of cancer progression or help determine the effective dose of an investigational drug. But this post focuses on predictive biomarkers. Continue reading…


New Ways to Talk About Cancer: Comics, Cartoons, and the Graphic Novel


Nancy K. Miller is a literary scholar, memoirist, and the author or editor of more than a dozen books. Her new memoir, Breathless: An American Girl in Paris, will be published this fall.

In December 2011, she was diagnosed with stage III lung cancer. She started documenting the experience in cartoons using watercolor, collage, and photographic images. Most recently, she presented her cartoons about her experience of cancer at the 4th International Conference on Comics and Medicine held in Brighton, England, in July. Continue reading…