"A bold new way to test cancer drugs started Monday in hundreds of hospitals around the U.S. In a medical version of speed dating, doctors will sort through multiple experimental drugs and match patients to the one most likely to succeed based on each person's unique tumor gene profile.
"It's a first-of-a-kind experiment that brings together five drug companies, the government, private foundations and advocacy groups. The idea came from the federal Food and Drug Administration, which has agreed to consider approving new medicines based on results from the study.
"Its goal is to speed new treatments to market and give seriously ill patients more chances to find something that will help. Instead of being tested for individual genes and trying to qualify for separate clinical trials testing single drugs, patients can enroll in this umbrella study, get full gene testing and have access to many options at once."
Editor's note: Many patients enroll in clinical trials as volunteers to test new drugs they wouldn't otherwise be able to get. But it can be difficult for patients to enroll on clinical trials, and even more difficult to enroll in ones that do a good job of taking into account the specific molecular characteristics of a patients' tumor(s). Other aspects of traditional clinical trials make them inefficient and expensive, and it can take a long time for useful insights to emerge. The study described in this article attempts to overhaul clinical trial design for people with with advanced squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Each patient will have his or her tumor(s) checked for 200 specific mutations. Based on the combination of mutations, his or her oncologist will then be able to request certain experimental drugs for the patient to try. This will hopefully let more patients access their best treatment options faster, and it will allow oncologists to learn more rapidly about the effectiveness of different drugs in different patients.