Utilizing targeted cancer therapeutic agents in combination: Novel approaches and urgent requirements

Shivanni Kummar, Helen X. Chen, John Wright, Susan Holbeck, Myrtle Davis Millin, Joseph Tomaszewski, James Zweibel, Jerry Collins, James H. Doroshow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The rapid development of new therapeutic agents that target specific molecular pathways involved in tumour cell proliferation provides an unprecedented opportunity to achieve a much higher degree of biochemical specificity than previously possible with traditional chemotherapeutic anticancer agents. However, the lack of specificity of these established chemotherapeutic drugs allowed a relatively straightforward approach to their use in combination therapies. Developing a paradigm for combining new, molecularly targeted agents, on the other hand, is substantially more complex. The abundance of molecular data makes it possible, at least in theory, to predict how such agents might interact across crucial growth control networks. Initial strategies to examine molecularly targeted agent combinations have produced a small number of successes in the clinic. However, for most of these combination strategies, both in preclinical models and in patients, it is not clear whether the agents being combined actually hit their targets to induce growth inhibition. Here, we consider the initial approach of the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) to the evaluation of combinations of molecularly targeted anticancer agents in patients and provide a description of several new approaches that the NCI has initiated to improve the effectiveness of combination-targeted therapy for cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)843-856
Number of pages14
JournalNature Reviews Drug Discovery
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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