Leads for which agents might be appropriate for a tumor's vulnerability can come from the oddest places.
Twitter, for example. Dr. Von Hoff said he and colleagues were at a meeting in Phoenix, and the question arose whether anyone had experience treating thymic cancer.
One of the people at the meeting, an aficionado of Twitter, suggested that the question be put on the social networking and micro-blogging service.
Within three minutes we had feedback from two different 'Twitterers' on where to get a drug that had activity [in thymic cancer], Dr. Von Hoff recalled. It was that dramatic.
That anecdote points to an immediate practical benefit: This would be just another way to let patients know [a relevant agent] is available, he said. If you have [that kind of] situation in the clinic, put it on Twitter.
Wouldn't it be special if we have a drug that has activity, to be able to tell people right away that 'we don't know if it would work for you but we have seen patients' tumors respond,' he said. Then at least they have a chance to be put on to a clinical trial.
Dr. Von Hoff said his institute is now using Twitter to help patients who have rare tumors, asking, Has anybody seen a response with this, and what did you do?
I think you're going to be seeing a lot more of that.
© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.