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Getting to the Mutations

Sequencing of tumors and drugs targeted to mutations found in those cancers are beginning to change how cancer is treated, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The newspaper focuses on Kellie Carey, a lung cancer patient who was given a few months to live back in 2010. But through persistence, Carey persuaded her physicians to genotype her tumor, and they uncovered that she had an ALK gene mutation that could be targeted by Pfizer's Xalkori.

And, the Journal adds, more drugs are out there, targeting other mutations in lung and other cancers, leading to more tailored therapies.

But, it notes, such precision medicine doesn't always work, or may only work for a little while — Carey's cancer found a way around her treatment in 2012.

"The tumor will keep evading our best therapies," Trever Bivona from the University of California, San Francisco, tells the Journal. "Ultimately we're going to have to get to combination approaches."

Carey, the WSJ adds, is on a new regimen that is keeping her cancer at bay.

Still, "[i]t opens up so many more doors for patients if you can find their target," Alice Shaw, an oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells the Journal.