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Drugs that target specific proteins set a new standard for treating cancer.

Targeted cancer therapy may be ready to fulfill its long-touted promise, if recent regulatory and scientific developments are any indication. In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Velcade (bortezomid), Millennium Pharmaceuticals� drug for multiple myeloma (see image below), and AstraZeneca�s Iressa (gefitinib, ZD1839) for lung cancer. Then in June, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), research on colon cancer drugs like Genentech�s Avastin (bevacizumab) and ImClone Systems� Erbitux (cetuximab) suggested that the previously maligned strategy of designing drugs that hone in on specific proteins necessary for cancer cell growth is viable after all. Patients taking Avastin and Erbitux in clinical trials stayed alive longer than those who did not.

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