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Precision cancer treatment

Each person’s cancer is unique, which is why cancer treatment should be custom-suited to the individual. Now imagine if each patient’s tumor could talk and reveal information about how to treat it. We could decode that information to give patients personalized treatment options. This idea is an emerging focus of cancer research known as precision medicine. The way it works is to match cancer-causing genes with existing or experimental therapies that target those genes.

Utilizing advanced diagnostic tools, doctors can decode tumors by identifying the genes or molecules driving the disease through a process called next-generation DNA sequencing (also known as genomic sequencing).VCU Massey Cancer Center is the first cancer care provider in Virginia to perform next-generation DNA sequencing. At Massey, this powerful capability is known as Oncogenomic DX One.

 

Using Oncogenomic DX One, Massey physicians are able to treat cancer patients with targeted therapies designed to pinpoint their molecular targets. Targeted therapies are revolutionizing cancer care, but advanced diagnostic tools such as Oncogenomic DX One are required to ensure that they are effectively and safely administered. Many of these drugs target genetic mutations found in only a small percentage of patients, and, if improperly prescribed, may do more harm than good.

Previous, limited-use DNA tests could only detect mutations in one or a few genes at a time. Additional testing required more tissue, which potentially required additional biopsies. Oncogenomic DX One uses one tissue sample to look for defects in 50 cancer-promoting genes. Patients and physicians are then given a detailed report showing any mutated genes and available targeted therapies.

“This is a new level of precision medicine that has great potential for cancer care and research,” says Gordon Ginder, M.D., director of VCU Massey Cancer Center. “All over the nation, cancer centers like Massey are working to develop drugs that target the complex molecular interactions driving the development and progression of cancer. Diagnostic tools such as Oncogenomic DX One give us the ability to match patients with available targeted therapies and applicable clinical trials and work to develop new drugs for gene defects for which no therapies currently exist.”

Oncogenomic DX One is currently offered for melanoma, lung and colon cancer patients, as those diseases have the most readily available FDA-approved targeted therapies. The test will eventually be made available to patients with other cancer types and molecularly driven diseases as more targeted therapies are developed and approved.

Learn more
Physicians interested in learning more about Oncogenomic DX One should contact Andrea Ferreira-Gonzalez, Ph.D., or Catherine Dumur, Ph.D., in the VCU Division of Molecular Diagnostics at (804) 828-9564. Patients interested in talking with a physician about whether they might benefit from advanced genomic sequencing should call (804) 828-5116, or toll-free (877) 462-7739, and make an appointment at Massey.

Patient Donna Sarver and Dr. Sherman Baker

Patient Stories

When Prince George resident Donna Sarver was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer it came as a shock. Sarver had never smoked and was in good health. Standard treatment options were available, but due to the advanced nature of her disease, there was no guarantee they would be effective. Fortunately, Sarver’s physician was able to put a limited-use gene sequencing test to work.