Gene mutation found

SCIENTISTS here have found a mutation in a gene that makes some cancer drugs less effective, as well as a solution to tackle this problem.

This mutation appears in about 15% of East Asians, and to a lesser extent in other Asians, but is completely absent in Caucasians and Africans.

A team of 55 researchers, led by Assoc Prof Ong Sin Tiong of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, found that “targeted” drugs to combat specific types of lung and blood cancers did not work as well in patients with the mutated gene.

However, the shortcoming can be addressed by the addition of another drug that is currently not commercially available, but is used in clinical trials elsewhere.

The existing targeted drugs, which block the growth and spread of the cancer by interfering with the molecules that cause the tumour to grow, are not cheap.

The bill can come up to S$2,000 (RM4,800) to S$3,000 (RM7,200) a month for lung cancer patients, with the drug able to extend life by as much as 30 months.

For leukaemia, the cost is S$4,000 (RM9,600) to S$5,000 (RM12,000) a month, with patients living a good-quality life for as long as a decade.

However, in about 20% of patients with these forms of cancers, the drug benefit is not as good as it is for the rest.

The team’s findings have been published in Nature Medicine – considered one of the the world’s top biomedical journals.

Prof Patrick Casey, senior vice-dean for research at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, called the discovery “spectacular”.

He said: “It’s very rare that a laboratory-based discovery has the potential to change the practice of medicine in the year that it is discovered.”

This is because the science to discover the mutation, plus the drug to deal with that, already exists.

But before this discovery goes into clinical use, full-scale human trials are needed. The scientists hope to link up with a large pharmaceutical firm for funding.

The team came not only from Duke-NUS but also from Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and several hospitals here and in Japan. It was the GIS that identified the slight mutation in the gene. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3


Did you find this article insightful?


Next In Regional

Alibaba founder Jack Ma delivers video speech to China’s rural teachers in first public appearance in three months
Tencent super app WeChat celebrates a decade of influence in China’s online world, but are its best years behind it?
Thai woman sentenced to 43 years in jail for insulting monarchy
Google backs Indian courier startup Dunzo in $40 million fundraising
MCO 2.0 to cost Malaysia RM600m daily, Zafrul says
Japan's Okinawa declares coronavirus emergency as cases spike
TikTok owner ByteDance launches Douyin Pay, its mobile payment service for China
Covid-19: Cases up by 3,631, bringing total to 165,371 (updated daily)
Covid-19: 3,631 new cases, 14 fatalities bring death toll to 619
Japan bets on robots to increase Covid-19 testing with Olympics near

Stories You'll Enjoy