Medical Breakthroughs: Chemotherapy Prediction

BACKGROUND: When a person is diagnosed with cancer, they are often given a common first line treatment for their type of cancer, whatever that may be. In many cases, this treatment will not work.

For example, the standard treatment for colorectal cancer only helps 35 percent of the patients. The other 65 percent of patients have the treatment, all of the side effects, and no results. The problem is doctors are not able to tell patients who will and will not respond to standard treatment. Thanks to microarray technology, doctors say they soon will be able to tell patients, based on the genes of their tumors, if they will or will not respond to chemotherapy.

MICROARRAY TECHNOLOGY: Microarray technology was developed to identify multiple genes at the same time. In the past, researchers tested only one gene at a time. However, doctors have learned there is a strong relationship among numerous genes in DNA.

Microarray technology allows scientists to understand the relationship among all of those genes. With regards to cancer research, microarray technology is used to look at a thin slice of a tumor and study the gene pattern. Researchers say, with this technology, they can study up to 12,000 genes at one time. Researchers believe the pattern between these genes will give them more information about each cancer, even telling them which tumors will respond to specific treatments.

DIFFERENT CANCERS: Right now, cancers are named based on where the cancer is located. But researchers are finding not all cancers in each area are the same. For example, doctors say there may be hundreds of different lung cancers that all require different treatments. The microarray technology will be able to differentiate cancers more accurately and determine the right treatment.

Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center are currently compiling a database of tumor patterns. They hope to be using this database by the end of the year. Doctors say this database will reveal the pattern of genes that respond to specific treatments. The goal is to give the patient better treatment by customizing what will work for their individual cancer. For example, doctors say they will be telling some patients to skip standard treatments because, based on their genes, another treatment may be more beneficial.

PATIENT ADVANTAGE: The benefit of customized medicine is that patients will not have to undergo treatments that will not work for them. It also allows doctors to give patients a better idea of what will happen to them from the beginning. Doctors point out, for most of the tumors they treat right now, there are more patients on chemotherapy who don't see a benefit than those who do.


Andrea Brunais, Media Relations
Moffitt Cancer Center
MBC-PR 10441 University Center Dr.
Tampa, FL 33612
(813) 632-1478

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