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Cancer researchers are making progress toward a goal that has eluded them for more than 30 years: shrinking tumors by shutting off a protein called KRAS that drives growth in many cancer types. A new type of drug aimed at KRAS made tumors disappear in mice and shrank tumors in lung cancer patients, two companies report in papers published this week.
It’s not yet clear whether the drugs will extend patients’ lives, but the results are generating a wave of excitement. And one company, Amgen, reports an unexpected bonus: Its drug also appears to stimulate the immune system to attack tumors, suggesting it could be even more powerful if paired with widely available immunotherapy treatments. “This is a nice demonstration that [a combination of drugs] might actually work,” says KRAS researcher Channing Der of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
A second company, Mirati, also reported promising human results this week at a meeting and in a paper in Cancer Discovery. Its KRAS(G12C) inhibitor shrank tumors in three of six lung cancer patients, as well as in one of four colon cancer patients.
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