With true success stories in cancer treatment so rare, the flood of recent papers validating the 1998 Food and Drug Administration approval of Herceptin (trastuzumab) stands out.1-3 In a broader sense, the drug's rocky road from conception to clinic also validates the concept of rational drug design, an approach that will become more common as pharmaceutical companies mine human genome information.

"It is extremely gratifying to have gone though the first laboratory determinations, to clinical trials, and to see Herceptin impact on increasing survival. That is a hard endpoint to obtain, and it feels good!" says Dennis Slamon, the cell biologist and oncologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine who spent a decade shepherding the drug through the pipeline, a goal that many thought would never be reached. Genentech Inc. of South San Francisco, Calif., markets the drug. The cosmetics company Revlon established the...

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