Researchers in Sarasota, Florida are looking into new ways to diagnose cancer earlier and how this can affect future cancer treatment and its efficacy.
For many years, cancer has been treated with chemotherapy as a one-size-fits-all treatment, when more oncologists are recognizing that individualized treatment may serve cancer sufferers better.
Scientists are currently using gene profiles to determine what genes in a patients DNA become altered, which in turn cause certain cancers. With this data, scientists can then determine the effectiveness and outcome of certain treatments which pertain to patients with certain biomarkers.
Sarasota oncologist Richard Brown says:
“Chemotherapy, as we have known it, is a blunt instrument.
There are underlying genetic abnormalities that differentiate one person’s breast cancer from another person’s. Just using one treatment, or even several different ones, isn’t effective if they don’t address the underlying cause for the cancer in the first place.”
The new study taking place in conjunction with several member hospitals of the National Tissue Research Group will hopefully begin to identify biomarkers for breast and ovarian cancer, which will make it easier to diagnose and treat the illness at an earlier stage. With this information, it is the hope that oncologists will be able to better tailor treatment for individuals, rather than simply giving everyone chemotherapy and radiation.
Currently, oncologists are working on alternatives to chemotherapy, such as immunotherapy, which has become popular in treating lymphoma and cancer of the bladder, kidneys and skin. With immunotherapy, the body uses its own defense mechanisms to destroy the cancer, which many times has a higher success rate and fewer side effects than chemotherapy.
Thus far, immunotherapy hasn’t been tested on breast or ovarian cancer, but Dr. Richard Brown maintains that the preliminary findings could lead to something incredibly exciting.
However, one of the issues many scientists face is that breast cancer is often very intelligent and is determined to continue to grow despite efforts to to squash it.
Brown adds of its intelligence:
“They manage to find ways around the treatments, but we are getting smarter and better with our biopsies to see if a different set of genes are blocking or adapting to the treatments.”
The findings thus far of these current studies will be presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December. However, the study will run for at least another year with hopes that the biomarkers can be detected.