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"Wonder drug for lung cancer

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02:35 PM MST on Saturday, January 20, 2007


Medication worked for Ann Matson

Instead of the one-size -fits-all approach to cancer treatment, some doctors are beginning to use DNA testing on tumors to find out which drug will work best. Not only does that give patients the best shot at a cure, but it also spares them unnecessary treatment and suffering.

Ann Matson works out everyday, sometimes with a personal trainer. Exercising gets her going in the morning, but it's a pill that gives her life. A year and a half ago, a CT scan showed cancer in Ann’s lung, which was quite a shock, considering she never smoked.

“I wasn't thinking about lung cancer, I was thinking I had a ruptured disc,” she said. “I was shocked.”

Instead of standard chemotherapy, Dr. Martins recommended genetic testing to see if a new cancer drug would benefit Ann.

“But one individual only has two outcomes: they either respond or they don’t and that’s defined by their genes,” he said.

Ann’s genetic testing revealed her cancer could be treated with a drug called Tarceva. She takes one pill every day, and now her cancer is gone.

Ann Matson exercises to stay strong after her bout with lung cancer.

“I think now here I am at this point feeling so good, I still take Tarceva everyday, it’s something I will always have to take,” she said. “It’s not something you take and get rid of it, you continue to take it.”

Ann never thought she'd be this strong after a diagnosis of cancer and calls Tarceva her "wonder drug. It's one of the newest medications on the market that targets specific cancers.

“These new target therapies were designed to do exactly what they do: to block that pathway that leads to tumor growth,” Dr. Martins said. “That's why they are more specific -- they don't have as many side effects as the conventional chemo therapy use to have.”

“In terms of other advances we have very improving surgical techniques for patients that have early stages of lung cancer, lung cancer that may be curable,” Dr. Douglas Wood said.

“Sometimes you get the impression because you are so good at what you do you can actually take a patient who has advanced stage lung cancer and do a surgery that will make their lives last a little bit longer. But, the diagnosis of lung cancer is a very, very severe, serious diagnosis.”

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