Cancer Basket Therapy

Cancer Basket Therapy


Background Information


Traditionally, cancer treatment relies on a malignancy’s site of origin—the organ or tissue where the cancer started growing. Therefore, doctors treat a malignancy that originated in the brain with therapies reserved for brain cancer, whereas they treat malignancies that originated in the breast with therapies developed for breast cancer. Unfortunately, patients respond to traditional treatments differently: some have complete responses but others respond only partially or not at all.


Currently, a new approach in clinical trials is testing drugs or drug combinations based on the genetic profiles of patients’ malignancies— that is, the specific gene(s) harboring mutations that are driving the cancer. With this new approach, it does not matter where in the body a cancer originates. For example, one patient’s melanoma may be due to mutations in the same gene that is responsible for another patient’s colon cancer. Some clinical trials group these patients with mutations in the same gene into “baskets” to receive the same drug or drug combinations. These basket trials build on a hypothesis that a cancer’s mutations predict the success of the targeted drug or combination, regardless of the cancer’s site of origin.


The medical community frequently refers to this basket therapy as “precision medicine” and “molecularly informed” clinical trials. SSA is exploring what effect, if any, such treatment may have on its Listing of Impairments (listings) for determining when cancer is disabling under the titles II and XVI disability programs. The Listing of Impairments (listings) designates medical conditions that are severe enough for SSA to consider a person to be disabled. More information about the listings may be found Here. Learn more about basket trials from the National Cancer Institute Here.


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