Scientists in the US are ecstatic about the 'penicillin moment' in cancer treatment, following trials of a drug which aims at the formation of specific tumours using genetic data.
The study has offered hope that drug manufacturers would be able to tailor drugs to individual cancers that will halt them in their tracks and even reverse the growth of existing tumours, reports the Telegraph.
For years scientists have been assembling vast amounts of genetic information provided through the human genome-sequencing project.
As part of the latest research, scientists in California developed a drug to block the effects of a specific gene mutation, B-RAF, linked to malignant melanoma - one of the deadliest cancers.
In one small clinical trial, tumours shrank by at least 30 per cent in 24 out of 32 patients with B-RAF mutations, and disappeared entirely in two other patients.
The drug cannot yet be declared a success as it comes with side effects, can only treat the specific B-RAF mutation and there are no indications of its long-term usefulness.
However, a study of the chemical process behind the drug demonstrates the potential for speedy development of similar treatments targeting the particular genetic mutations that lie behind different types of tumour.
Mark Stratton of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute said: "We've entered an end game in which we are going to complete our understanding of what causes cancer."
Yardena Samuels of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesd said: "It's a very important development, not just for melanoma, but for the entire cancer field."
The findings appeared in the journal Nature.