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The drug industry has made a mint on immunotherapies for cancer, but those game-changing treatments don’t work for most people’s tumors. That has set in motion a scientific gold rush, as biotech companies search for molecules they can add to those drugs to turn them into universal therapies.

The latest promising candidate is TGF-beta, a thorny collection of proteins that regulates a host of bodily functions. Among them is the process by which the immune system decides to either attack cancerous growths or let them pass idly by.


Early data suggest that adding a drug that blocks TGF-beta to blockbuster cancer treatments like Merck’s Keytruda and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo could help vanquish tumors in the roughly three-quarters of cancer patients for whom those therapies aren’t effective.

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