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This Week in Science: Mar 13, 2015

In this week's Science, a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center-led team reports new insights into the genomic determinants of immune checkpoint inhibitors, a new class of drugs that use a patient's own T cells to attack cancer. Using whole-exome sequencing of non-small cell lung cancers treated with the antibody pembrolizumab, the researcher found higher nonsynonymous mutation burden in tumors was associated with better responses to treatment. Efficacy also correlated with the molecular smoking signature, higher neoantigen burden, and DNA repair pathway mutations; and all these factors were associated with mutation burden. The findings suggest that the genomic makeup of lung cancers influences response to this kind of therapy.

Meanwhile, in Science Translational Medicine, a pair of cancer experts from the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Washington argue for better integration of cancer prevention and early detection strategies, and say such integration should be tailored to a region’s healthcare resources and cancer demographics to reduce the global burden of cancer. Meanwhile, as advances in genomics and molecular epidemiology "usher in a new era of prevention and early-detection strategies," policymakers should work to prevent a divide between prevention and early detection in cancer care prioritization, the researchers say.