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In recent years, drug companies have leveraged research into the molecular makeup of cancer cells to develop highly effective medicines for patients with specific genetic defects. The latest entry in that category: A once-a-day pill from Ignyta (RXDX). It targets defective cancer-causing genes, called ROS1, found in approximately 2 percent of lung cancer cases.

The Ignyta drug, known as entrectinib, is producing large and durable tumor responses that reach into the brain, where ROS1-positive lung cancers commonly spread, according to preliminary clinical trial results presented Tuesday at a research meeting in Japan.

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