New cancer drug ‘Vitrakvi’ targets genetic mutations

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EDISON -

The Food and Drug Administration has just approved a cancer drug that provides a new way of attacking tumors by targeting the genetic mutation.

Vitrakvi can be used to treat rare cancers in adults and children. It has proved successful when used by blocking cells that cause cancer. It is said to be the first of its kind and could pave the way for more treatments.

“All the money you’ve invested as a taxpayer into understanding cancer are starting now to translate into actual therapies,” says Dr. Howard Hochster, director of oncology research at RWJBarnabas Health.

Eddie Franz, 62, has been using the drug to treat his stage-4 lung cancer. Franz is a nonsmoker, but developed the illness anyway. He is one of 400 people who qualified for a trial treatment of the drug.

"My genetic profile came back and they saw that I had a very treatable mutation and the drug trial was there and the oncologist said this was really going to work,” he says.

RELATED: HS basketball coach diagnosed with cancer leads team to school title

Franz has been fighting the illness for two years. He still works as a high school basketball coach and has even had a championship season and his 400th win.

“The hope for my mutation - we can turn this into a treatable, chronic disease versus what it’s been, which is the No. 1 killer of all the cancers out there,” says Franz.

Doctors say that Vitrakvi could lead to more treatments for cancer.

"We imagine this is the tip of the iceberg of a variety of treatments that are in the pipeline and being developed in the future,” says Dr. Shridar Ganesan with the Rutgers Cancer Institute.

Prices for Vitrakvi range between $11,000 and $32,000 for a one-month supply. Insurance could bring the price down to $20 or less.

The drug was developed by Bayer, which has an office in Whippany.

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