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250 Years of Advances Against Cancer - 1990s

1990
Eric Fearon and Bert Vogelstein describe the multi-step nature of colon cancer development, showing that the mutation of more than one gene is required for a normal colon cell to become cancerous.
1991
Odansetron is approved by the FDA for the prevention of nausea and vomiting (emesis) associated with cancer chemotherapy and surgery. Other highly effective antiemetic drugs would soon be approved.

Results of a randomized controlled clinical trial conducted in the United States show that chemotherapy with the drugs 5-FU and cisplatin followed by radiation therapy allowed many patients with advanced laryngeal cancer to keep their voice box instead of having it removed by surgery.
1992
Paclitaxel, the first of a class of drugs known as taxanes, is approved by the FDA for the treatment of advanced ovarian cancer. Originally purified from the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus brevifolia), paclitaxel blocks cancer cell proliferation by stabilizing microtubules.
1993
Results from an NCI-supported, randomized controlled clinical trial show that annual screening with guaiac FOBT can help reduce colorectal cancer mortality by about 33 percent.

An NCI-convened international workshop on breast cancer screening reviews published and unpublished data from eight randomized controlled clinical trials, including the HIP trial that was launched in 1963, and concludes that screening with mammography reduces breast cancer mortality among women ages 50-69.

The MSH2 gene, one of several genes associated with an inherited, or familial, cancer syndrome known as hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC) is cloned. The protein product of this gene functions in the repair of damaged DNA, and people who inherit a mutated form of the gene have greatly increased risks of colorectal and other cancers.
1994
The tumor suppressor gene BRCA1 is cloned. The protein product of this gene plays a role in DNA damage repair, and women who inherit a harmful mutation in the gene have increased risks of breast, ovarian, and certain other cancers.

The ALK proto-oncogene is discovered when part of it is found fused to part of another gene, called NPM, to form an oncogene in anaplastic large cell lymphoma (a type of T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma). Later work would show that other oncogenes involving altered versions of ALK play a role in about 4 percent of non-small cell lung cancers, some large B-cell lymphomas, and about 7 percent of neuroblastomas.
1995
The tumor suppressor gene BRCA2 is cloned. Similar to BRCA1, BRCA2 produces a protein that plays a role in DNA damage repair, and women who inherit a harmful mutation in this gene have increased risks of breast, ovarian, and certain other cancers.
1996
NCI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Cancer Society report the first sustained decline in the rate of death from cancer in the United States since record keeping began in the 1930s. Between 1991 and 1995, the overall U.S. cancer death rate fell by 2.6 percent.

Topotecan, the first of a class of drugs that interferes with the activity of an enzyme called topoisomerase I, is approved by the FDA for the treatment of metastatic ovarian cancer. Topoisomerase enzymes help uncoil DNA during DNA replication, and blocking the activities of these enzymes leads to cancer cell death.

Anastrozole, which inhibits the production of estrogen in the body by blocking the activity of an enzyme called aromatase, is approved by the FDA for the treatment of estrogen receptor-positive advanced breast cancer in postmenopausal women whose disease has progressed after treatment with the drug tamoxifen. It is the first aromatase inhibitor to be approved by the FDA and would later be approved as an initial hormonal treatment for women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.
1997
The FDA approves the first biotechnology product to treat patients with cancer—a monoclonal antibody called rituximab. Rituximab was initially approved for use in patients with treatment-resistant, low-grade or follicular B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), but it would later be approved as an initial therapy for these types of NHL, another type called diffuse large B-cell NHL, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
1998
Results from the NCI-sponsored Breast Cancer Prevention Trial show that the drug tamoxifen reduces the incidence of breast cancer among women who are at increased risk of the disease by about 50%. The FDA subsequently approved tamoxifen for the prevention of breast cancer in high-risk women.

Trastuzumab, a monoclonal antibody that targets cancer cells that overproduce the protein HER2, is approved by the FDA for the treatment of women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer who have already been treated with chemotherapy for metastatic disease. Later, it would be approved for the adjuvant treatment of women with HER2-positive early stage breast cancer and for the treatment of patients with HER2-positive metastatic gastric or gastroesophageal cancer.
  • Updated: February 10, 2014