Cancer Drug Heralds New Era of Personalized Meds

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Lung cancer is the single deadliest form of cancer. Every year it affects more than 200,000 people.
    
But a new drug recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration may turn the tide in the fight against the deadly disease.

Early reports suggest the results of the drug are nothing short of miraculous.

Tina's Miracle in a Bottle

Tina Meranda was dying of Stage 4 lung cancer.

"I would beg my kids to play right in front of me, so I could be around them, because basically I could do hardly anything," Meranda said.

Doctors told her she had only a few weeks to live.

"My oncologist basically said there was absolutely nothing he could do," she said.

Out of desperation, her husband began searching the Internet for anything that might save his wife. That's when he stumbled across Xalkori, a new drug manufactured by Pfizer.

The medication it's only effective for a small number of patients. For it to work they must have non-small cell lung cancer as well as what is known as the ALK gene.

Only 7 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer every year have it.  Meranda was among the 7 percent.

"Ninety percent will have sometime type of response, and 60 percent have significant response," said Dr. Alice Shaw, a thoracic oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.

The ALK gene makes tumors grow out of control. Xalkori goes after the gene and shuts it down - quickly.

"Within hours, 24 hours, I started getting better, and today I'm off all pain killers," Merand said. "I have more energy than I've had in three years and it's just wonderful."

A New Lease on Life

It is still unclear how long the pills will be effective.  Patients take the drug until it stops fighting their tumors.  After that they're put back on chemo drugs.

Meranda says it's enough that life is now livable again.

"I'm loving life," she said. "They're loving life and I'm glad to be back to almost normal."

The new drug doesn't come cheap.  It costs around $9,600 a month.

Medical experts say that Xalkori is one example of what many say is drug makers' new strategy -- develop medicines that will effectively help very few patients instead of working on a generic drug for the masses.

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Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/LorieJohnsonCBN.