Mechanism of Action: Key Advances in Hematology Oncology

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Lisa Raedler, PhD, RPh

As evidenced by the 2013 annual meetings of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and the European Hematology Association (EHA), the pace at which scientific knowledge is influencing cancer drug development is astounding. Breakthroughs in our collective understanding of the underlying biology of solid and liquid tumors have revolutionized cancer treatment compared with as few as 5 years ago. Today, the “traditional” success stories of personalized cancer medicine—chronic myeloid leukemia and HER2-positive breast cancer—are being joined by reports of impressive gains in overall survival for patients with multiple myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, melanoma, lung cancer, and advanced prostate cancer. This special issue is designed to give practicing oncologists, nurses, pharmacists, and other cancer care providers a concise update on 3 promising pathways in cancer drug development: BCL-2 inhibition, JAK inhibition, and BRAF inhibition. Each of these sections reviews the biologic rationale for targeting that pathway as well as the current development status of drug therapies in that group, as reported during the AACR, ASCO, and EHA meetings. A final section on other key presentations rounds out the meetings coverage. There are drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration that affect JAK and BRAF; this focused update may provide additional insight on relevant clinical applications. Other novel agents are not yet available for standard use in oncology offices and clinics, but clinical trials of promising treatments may be actively recruiting patients.
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