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The Healing Dozen


Metastatic melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, but thanks to a new drug called verumafenib, some patients are seeing their tumors shrink rapidly, say Bloomberg's Robert Langreth and Michelle Fay Cortez. The treatment, made by Roche and Japan's Daiichi Sankyo, is "part of a revolution in cancer biology" — one of a dozen new drugs in advanced trials from various companies "that are starting to rewrite the prognosis for patients," Langreth and Cortez say. Stephen Hodi, the director of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's melanoma center, tells Bloomberg that "we are entering a golden age of melanoma therapies." The new drugs are providing clinicians with more choices for combination therapies and prolonging survival. In one study being conducted by GlaxoSmithKline, the company is testing its GSK2118436 compound, which blocks one mutated protein associated with the spread of cancer, in combination with a treatment that stops a related growth-promoting molecule, Langreth and Cortez report. Drugs like vemurafenib and GSK2118436 are generating cautious buzz among oncologists, they add. Though there are still risks of secondary cancers, and some patients have stopped responding after several months of treatment, researchers says they are making progress against melanoma.

Data on the newest drugs will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, which starts June 3 in Chicago — Cancer Minute will be on hand at the conference to bring you the latest news.

The Scan

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.

Gut Microbiomes Allow Bears to Grow to Similar Sizes Despite Differing Diets

Researchers in Scientific Reports find that the makeup of brown bears' gut microbiomes allows them to reach similar sizes even when feasting on different foods.

Finding Safe Harbor in the Human Genome

In Genome Biology, researchers present a new approach to identify genomic safe harbors where transgenes can be expressed without affecting host cell function.

New Data Point to Nuanced Relationship Between Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder

Lund University researchers in JAMA Psychiatry uncover overlapping genetic liabilities for major depression and bipolar disorder.