A new tumour-agnostic drug has been approved for use in Europe. The revolutionary drug, experts say, has the potential to cure more cancer patients and reduce side-effects.
Called larotrectinib, the new drug does not care where the cancer is growing in the body and instead looks for a specific genetic abnormality, which means it can be used to treat a wide range of tumours.
Doctors in the UK have said the new drug is “a really exciting thing” and marks a move away from having ‘drugs that treat breast cancer’, ‘drugs that treat bowel cancer’ and ‘drugs that treat lung cancer’, to having drugs that target the genetic make-up of each patient’s tumour.
However, the decision by European regulators does not mean that any cancer patient can take advantage of larotrectinib right away. Its approval for use right now only applies to patients with solid tumours that have been caused by a genetic abnormality known as an NTRK gene fusion.
This rare abnormality happens when part of an individual’s DNA accidentally merges with another, leading to an alteration in the body’s blueprint that allows cancer to grow.
Speaking about the drug development, Dr Julia Chisholm, a children's cancer consultant at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said: “It is a really exciting thing, as is it works across a range of cancers. It's not confined to one.”