“A team of Dana-Farber scientists has released new research with an important message about precision medicine: Sequencing the genes of brain tumors in kids could point to treatments that target their genetic abnormalities and therefore have the best chance of being effective. At least one of those drugs is already on the market, Novartis’ Tafinlar (dabrafenib), approved by the FDA to treat other types of cancer but still readily available to pediatric oncologists who may want to try it in their patients.”
“The federal government is launching a very different kind of cancer study that will assign patients drugs based on what genes drive their tumors rather than the type.
“The National Cancer Institute’s NCI-MATCH trial will be a massive precision medicine experiment at more than 2,400 sites around the country.
“Starting in July, about 3,000 patients will have their tumor genes sequenced to see what mutations or pathways fuel their disease. About 1,000 patients whose tumor characteristics most closely match one of the 20 or so gene-targeting drugs offered in the study will be put into groups of about 30 patients to get that drug.
” ‘The goal is really to try to get the information faster, so when we see responses we can expand rapidly’ and offer the drug more widely, said Dr. Douglas Lowy, the Cancer Institute’s acting director.”
“When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s important to know as much about her tumour as possible to determine the best treatment. Most cases of breast cancer are sporadic, but a minority are hereditary and caused by one or more mutations in genes such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. To find such genetic mutations in newly diagnosed patients, researchers must sequence the woman’s DNA, which is generally a relatively slow process that generates results weeks or months after patients have started treatment. Next generation sequencing (NGS) is a newer method of sequencing DNA that processes large amounts of data. It’s faster and more expensive than conventional sequencing, but in recent years it has become cheaper and more widely accessible by rapid advances in computing power. With the use of NGS, which will soon become the mainstay of clinical genetics, breast cancer units will likely be able to get the results of genetic testing before patients begin their breast cancer treatment.”