“President Obama’s initiative to advance personalized medicine depends on the sort of breakthroughs in cell biology that have produced cancer drugs like the one extending my life. Yet very few adults with cancer enroll in clinical trials. Why do many trials fail to enroll sufficient patients, when scientists now test less debilitating therapies than those commonly used?
“I entered a Phase I trial in August 2012. Recurrences had proved that standard treatments could not eradicate my ovarian cancer. The pills from my trial, which I take at home, have kept the cancer at bay for more than two years — without destroying my appetite, muddling my mind, or dampening my spirit the way three cycles of chemotherapy did when infused intravenously in the hospital. A reader informs me that for seven months this same drug gave him a “wonderful respite” from an aggressive prostate cancer.
“Instead of destroying all quick-growing cells as well as tumors, targeted drugs pinpoint cancer cells, enabling them to mature into normal cells or disabling them from reproducing. Researchers are using personalized medicine on virtually every type of malignancy with some success. A significant percentage of patients with leukemia have experienced a remission with the clinical drug AG-221, while the lives of a significant population of women with metastatic breast cancer have been extended by the drugs Kadcyla and Perjeta. Scientists in immunotherapy — which unleashes the immune system to kill cancer cells — have produced medicines that help people survive with metastatic melanoma and lung cancer.”