Interview with John Heymach, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, MD
Anderson Cancer Center,
Houston, Texas, USA
Well, for cancer doctors, like myself, and I think cancer
researchers around the world, we see personalised cancer care as
the future of cancer therapy. What personalised cancer care means
is using the right drug for the right person at the right time. And
let me explain that in a little more detail. If you take lung
cancer as an example, we started using chemotherapy for lung cancer
in the early 70s; 1973 was the first time we started using two
chemotherapy drugs together for lung cancer. Between 1973 and 2000,
there was almost no improvement despite trying all these different
How to personalise cancer care is one of the most active areas of research; and that's what we spend a lot of our time trying to develop is what we call biomarkers for selecting patients for personalised care. In recent years, we've learnt that certain lung cancer patients have a mutation in a protein, called the EGF receptor or EGFR. And patients, whose cancers have an EGFR mutation, are very responsive to drugs that block the EGFR pathway, and so, fortunately a number of these
have been developed in recent years. So, if you have an EGFR mutation, you've got about a 70 or 80% chance of having a dramatic shrinkage.
Developing targeted therapies and understanding how to combine them really is the future of cancer, the golden egg, so to speak. If we could look into the future, I think what all of us can envision is that a tumour would get profiled, we would understand it at a molecular level, where we're not treating all lung cancer the same, for example, we're treating tumour a differently than tumour b than tumour c. And then coming up with a non-toxic or a cocktail with as little toxicity as possible that people are able to take for a prolonged period of time.