Scientists are trying to help lung cancer sufferers by designing "personalized" drugs tailor-made to suit each DNA mutation of the disease, the New York Times reports. The first major study of squamous cell lung cancer—which kills more people annually than breast cancer or colon cancer—found that drugs can be made or already exist to treat more than 50% of existing tumor mutations. It's part of a new approach that treats cancer as a genetic disease rather than an ailment of a particular organ or tissue.
Still, there's a ways to go. Researchers need to confirm that the mutations really do fuel the tumors' growth; then a consortium of medical centers will administer personalized drugs to patients who have the same squamous cell cancer mutation. But we know it can work: Pfizer went down a similar path in treating adenocarcinomas, the world's most common lung cancer. "The old way of doing clinical trials where patients are only tied together by the organ where there cancer originated, those days are passing,” says a Pfizer executive.