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…


Melanoma: A 2013 ‘Progress Report’


The past year saw some remarkable advances in melanoma clinical research and treatment. This feature explores the most notable melanoma news of 2013: 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…


Patient’s Perspective: Erin Youngerberg’s Take on Melanoma


Erin Youngerberg was diagnosed with melanoma in October, 2010, at age 32 years. Well-traveled and an avid photographer, she grew up in Minnesota, went to college and worked in Milwaukee, then made her way east, living in Ohio and North Carolina before ending up in Jersey City, just outside of New York City. After her diagnosis, she started a blog to keep folks back home updated. Called ‘Melanoma and the City,’ it tells the whole story: from appointments at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City to various city adventures; from treatment side effects to recipes for quinoa and tacos. Erin has also found herself dedicated to spreading the word about melanoma awareness. We asked her to take us through her melanoma story. Continue reading…


The Promising Landscape of New Treatments for Metastatic Melanoma


In the last few years, patients with the grim diagnosis of metastatic melanoma have gained reasons to feel more hopeful about their chances of beating the disease. Melanoma has become a poster child for new cancer treatment options, with several targeted and immune therapies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and many more in clinical development. 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…


NRAS Mutation in Melanoma: A Challenging Target


Among melanomas, BRAF-mutated disease gets the vast majority of attention. Fifty percent of melanomas harbor BRAF mutations, which can be targeted with BRAF inhibitors. However, despite its notoriety, BRAF is not the only important melanoma mutation.

Another melanoma-linked mutation can be found in the NRAS gene. Like BRAF mutations, NRAS mutations are ‘driver mutations’—a tumor with an NRAS mutation is dependent on the mutation for its growth and survival. Continue reading…


Multidisciplinary Team Tackles Personalized Medicine for Melanoma Patients with Normal BRAF Gene


A group of melanoma researchers and clinicians have received funding to address an important question in melanoma treatment: are there molecular targets for melanomas that do not harbor a mutation in the BRAF gene? And can we identify drug candidates for these new molecular targets? The Stand Up to Cancer (SUC2) philanthropic program and the Melanoma Research Alliance are jointly funding the 3-year, eight-institution endeavor. Continue reading…