CLEVELAND-- It is being called a breakthrough cancer drug, which could treat or even cure more than a dozen different cancers.
"So the really exciting thing about this is that traditionally, we've always treated cancers based on where they're located. We treat lung cancer like lung cancer, breast cancer like breast cancer," said Dr. Dale Shepard, medical oncologist with the Cleveland Clinic.
But now, Shepard said there may be an underlying genetic reason why there is a tumor.
With this new drug, called Larotrectinib, all tumors with a specific mutation gene called TRK, can be treated the same way, Shepard said. That includes 17 different malignancies, mostly rare cancers, but also a small portion of salivary gland tumors, lung and breast cancers.
"This is a therapy based on a gene change in the tumor and because we're using a much more specific way to treat, we get much better responses," he said.
Patients with otherwise incurable cancers saw their tumors disappear, often within days.
The FDA said the drug is delivered in the form of a pill and is taken twice a day.
Doctors said it is a potential treatment for patients who have exhausted other options, but they must be tested to see whether their tumors carry the mutation.
"We know that if there's a mutation in that particular protein in that gene, that makes the cells cancerous. If we can block that process, we block the specific cancer."