Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sarcoma and Smart Drugs

This article from Harvard Magazine tells the story of a man with a particularly ugly form of sarcoma called GIST and his treatment with so-called "smart drugs," agents that destroy tumors by targeting the specific proteins in malignant cells, rather than just mowing down everything growing a la conventional chemotherapy. The patient happens upon the right man, Dana-Farber's Dr. George Demetri, at the right time, just as trials of the smart drug Gleevec are primed to begin.

A caveat on the piece is that it is written by a former president of Dana-Farber, so it's not objective. It doesn't end well, either. But it melds a moving human story with insight into the science behind smart drugs and some of the medical and ethical issues presented by drug trials. It also briefly discusses dasatinib, a Gleevec-like agent that is currently being assessed for action against epithelioid sarcoma in a new study. I'll have more on that soon.

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