New cancer treatment scale to help doctors improve early detection

Universal scale will help doctors target the most aggressive tumours with tailored treatments

A new blood test could help improve early detection rates for cancer. Getty Images
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The Scale for Clinical Actionability of Molecular Targets

A new 'cancer scale' devised by medical experts is set to help doctors identify changes in patients care needs more efficiently - and boost their chances of recovery.

The Scale for Clinical Actionability of Molecular Targets aims to improve treatment and cut the costs of cancer care by making it easier to identify patients who will respond to precision medicines, which are specifically tailored for their needs.

The project, initiated by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), will allow doctors to pinpoint changes to a tumour's DNA, allowing for a fluidity and flexibility in treatment that will ensure each patient gets the most appropriate care at all stages.

Details of the universal scale have been published in medical journal: The Annals of Oncology.

The six-tier scale sets out checklists doctors should go through when treating a cancer patient, from providing proven treatment for known genetic mutations, such as the BRAC gene in breast cancer, to analysing a genetic alteration in detail to determine what treatments are most suitable and have previously been successfully used.

The cancer rate throughout the GCC is forecast to double over the next decade, the highest growth worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.

Recent government figures show 4,500 new cancer cases are reported each year in the UAE.

The new scale would give the growing number of cancer patients in the UAE "optimal treatment choices", says one of the driving forces behind the development.

“Doctors receive a growing amount of information about the genetic make-up of each patient’s cancer, but this can be difficult to interpret for making optimal treatment choices,” said Professor Fabrice André, chairman of the ESMO Translational Research and Precision Medicine Working Group.

“The new scale will help us distinguish between alterations in tumour DNA that are important for decisions about targeted medicines or access to clinical trials, and those which aren’t relevant.”

The new grading system is the first time a relevant classification scale has been developed to improve the effects of targeted cancer medicines.

It focuses on clinical evidence, matching any identified tumour mutations in patients with the most effective available drugs.

Current testing techniques can show which genes within a tumour are mutated, but do not identify which ones should be prioritised for treatment.

One of those treatments that could be added to the arsenal of cancer fighting drugs in the near future is Vistusertib.

A recent trial of the new medicine has found it to be successful in blocking a compound that helps tumours grow.

Research into Vistusertib has found successful results in treating terminally ill patients with ovarian and lung cancer.

The medicine was found to reduce the size of tumours by blocking a compound known as p-S6K.

The research, also published in The Annals of Oncology, has been described as 'very exciting' by the Institute of Cancer Research in London.

However, academics have suggested further trials are required before the drug becomes more widely available.


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The Scale for Clinical Actionability of Molecular Targets