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Study: personalized drugs may lengthen cancer survival

April 20, 2009
Courtesy Translational Genomics Research Institute
and World Science staff

A pri­vate com­pa­ny’s “ge­netic pro­files” of in­di­vid­ual can­cer pa­tients in a study helped cre­ate per­son­al­ized treat­ments that helped them sur­vive long­er, ac­cord­ing to re­search­ers.

The stu­dy, re­leased jointly by health­care or­gan­iz­a­tions in the Phoe­nix, Ariz. ar­ea, was pre­sented April 19 at the an­nu­al meet­ing of the Amer­i­can As­socia­t­ion for Can­cer Re­search in Den­ver by Dan­iel Von Hoff, physician-in-chief of the Phoe­nix-based Trans­la­t­ional Ge­nomics Re­search In­sti­tute. 

The study in­clud­ed 66 pa­tients at nine cen­ters across the Un­ited States who had pre­vi­ously suf­fered tu­mor growth while re­ceiv­ing as many as two to six pri­or treat­ments, in­clud­ing chem­o­ther­a­py. But af­ter mo­lec­u­lar pro­fil­ing iden­ti­fied pre­cise tar­gets, new treat­ments were ad­min­is­tered that re­sulted in pa­tients ex­pe­ri­encing sig­nif­i­cant per­i­ods of time when there was no pro­gres­sion of their can­cer, the re­search­ers said.

“We com­pared each pa­tien­t’s pro­gres­sion-free sur­viv­al, fol­low­ing treat­ment based on mo­lec­u­lar pro­fil­ing, to how their tu­mors pro­gressed un­der their pri­or treat­ment reg­i­mens,” Von Hoff said.

In a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of pa­tients, the tar­geted treat­ments pro­vid­ed sig­nif­i­cantly long­er per­i­ods when tu­mors did not prog­ress, or even shrunk, said Von Hoff, a form­er di­rec­tor of the Ar­i­zo­na Can­cer Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­s­ity of Ar­i­zo­na.

He added that the new study was done in a way that avoided is­sues sur­round­ing tu­mor sub­types and dif­fer­ences in in­di­vid­ual bi­ol­o­gy, which have con­found­ed oth­er clin­i­cal tri­als. He said this clin­i­cal tri­al dem­on­strat­ed the val­ue of per­son­al­ized med­i­cine, in which treat­ments are pre­scribed based on an in­di­vid­ual’s spe­cif­ic ge­net­ic make­up.

The type of drugs, dosages, their de­liv­ery and oth­er treat­ment as­pects – all were based on each pa­tien­t’s in­di­vid­ual med­i­cal needs, he con­tin­ued. Among the pa­tients, 27 per­cent had breast can­cer, 17 per­cent had col­orec­tal can­cer, 8 per­cent had ovar­i­an can­cer and 48 per­cent had can­cers clas­si­fied as mis­cel­la­ne­ous.

Pa­tients ex­pe­ri­enced var­y­ing lev­els of im­prove­ment, Von Hoff said. Among those with breast can­cer, the per­i­od of pro­gres­sion-free sur­viv­al in­creased for 44 per­cent of pa­tients; for col­orec­tal, 36 per­cent of pa­tients; for ovar­i­an, 20 per­cent of pa­tients; and for mis­cel­la­ne­ous can­cers the im­prove­ment was seen in 16 per­cent of pa­tients. 

“We are show­ing the pow­er of per­son­al­ized med­i­cine us­ing the tools we al­ready have avail­a­ble to us. As these tools be­come more pre­cise and more ef­fec­tive, the val­ue of per­son­al­ized med­i­cine will in­crease,” Von Hoff said.

The mo­lec­u­lar pro­fil­ing for the study was per­formed by Caris Di­ag­nos­tics in Phoe­nix, which mar­kets a test­ing serv­ice called Tar­get Now de­signed to of­fer doc­tors in­di­vid­ualized in­forma­t­ion about pa­tients’ tu­mors. The study was founded by lo­cal phi­lan­thro­pist Jer­ry Bis­grove, a trus­tee of the Scotts­dale Health­care Founda­t­ion based in Scotts­dale, Ariz., re­search­ers said.


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A private company’s “genetic profiles” of individual cancer patients in a study helped create personalized treatments that helped them survive longer, according to researchers. The study, released jointly by healthcare organizations in the Phoenix, Ariz. area, was presented April 19 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Denver by Daniel Von Hoff, Physician-In-Chief of the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute. The study included 66 patients at nine centers across the United States who had previously suffered tumor growth while receiving as many as two to six prior treatments, including chemotherapy. But after molecular profiling identified precise targets, new treatments were administered that resulted in patients experiencing significant periods of time when there was no progression of their cancer, the researchers said. “We compared each patient’s progression-free survival, following treatment based on molecular profiling, to how their tumors progressed under their prior treatment regimens,” Von Hoff said. In a significant number of patients, the targeted treatments provided significantly longer periods when tumors did not progress, or even shrunk, said Von Hoff, a former Director of the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona. He added that the new study was done in a way that avoided issues surrounding tumor subtypes and differences in individual biology, which have confounded other clinical trials. He said this clinical trial demonstrated the value of personalized medicine, in which treatments are prescribed based on an individual’s specific genetic makeup. The type of drugs, dosages, their delivery and other treatment aspects – all were based on each patient’s individual medical needs, he continued. Among the patients, 27 percent had breast cancer, 17 percent had colorectal cancer, 8 percent had ovarian cancer and 48 percent had cancers classified as miscellaneous. Patients experienced varying levels of improvement, Von Hoff said. Among those with breast cancer, the period of progression-free survival increased for 44 percent of patients; for colorectal, 36 percent of patients; for ovarian, 20 percent of patients; and for miscellaneous cancers the improvement was seen in 16 percent of patients. “We are showing the power of personalized medicine using the tools we already have available to us. As these tools become more precise and more effective, the value of personalized medicine will increase,” Von Hoff said. The molecular profiling for the study was performed by Caris Diagnostics in Phoenix, which markets a testing service called Target Now designed to offer doctors individualized information about patients’ tumors. The study was founded by local philanthropist Jerry Bisgrove, a trustee of the Scottsdale Healthcare Foundation based in Scottsdale, Ariz., researchers said.