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Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 7:46am

Custom Cancer Treatments

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 3:18pm

Genetic testing allows treatments designed for individual patients.

When it comes to treating cancer, genetic testing has been a major asset.

Determining whether a cancer patient has a genetic link to the disease plays a major role in determining their course of treatment.

Yet, traditional tests are limited and sometimes miss important information.

Now doctors at Dana Farber Cancer Institute say the science has taken gene testing a step further.

"The technology is such that we are now able to look at everything in the cancer at once and get a substantially greater amount of information from all of our patient's tumor," says Dr. Pasi Janne.

It's called whole genome sequencing.

It gives doctors a full picture of the tumor's dna and the patient's.

Beverly Sotir, mother of eight, grandmother of 14, and a nonsmoker has been battling lung cancer for five years.

She had the gene sequencing done after three bouts of chemotherapy didn't help.

It revealed a genetic defect.

She started taking a drug that fought her mutation and has seen her tumors shrink by more than fifty percent.

"You don't have to go through traditional chemo, you're not sick, you're not tired," she says.

Two studies published in the journal of the American Medical Association confirm gene sequencing can make a real difference for cancer patients and their families.

While the new test is promising, it's not a fix-all.

"You get a lot of information out of that, and you need to be able to distill that information down to the relevant components," explains Dr. Janne.

Still, they hope to get there soon and give patients a treatment tailored to their disease.

The test costs tens of thousands of dollars and is not covered by insurance.

There are also ethical issues raised with the testing.

Doctors are still debating how much information is too much.
 

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