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Fresh Take on Ras

NPR reports that although RAS was the first cancer gene to be identified, there are still no drugs that target it, though there are new efforts under way.

The University of California, San Francisco's Frank McCormick, NPR says, has been studying RAS since the 1980s. "People got into the drug discovery game very early for RAS," McCormick tells NPR. "They tried and failed very early also, so people moved away from RAS as a target."

University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center's Adrienne Cox, who has also studied RAS for years, tells NPR that it has earned a reputation to be "undruggable."

But in 2014, Harold Varmus, then the head of the National Cancer Institute, allotted $10 million a year to tackle RAS, and NPR notes that the resulting RAS Initiative and others are taking a new looks at RAS, its shape and how it binds to cancer cells. For one RAS mutant, KRAS G12C, which is common among lung cancers, NPR says a potential weak spot has been identified and that drugs targeting it could be tested in people later this year.

"The general public shouldn't go out and call their stockbrokers and think it's all over," Cox tells NPR, "but for those of us in the field for a long time, these are real advances."