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Gene Test Leads to Targeted Treatment


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http://cbs4denver.com/localhealth/cetux ... 87396.html


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Dr. Dave Hnida AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) ― Colorado researchers are offering new hope to lung cancer patients.

Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. When it's caught early it can be treated, but most patients are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease offering doctors few effective treatment options. Now research is showing an extra cancer drug given to certain patients is doubling their life span.

"Time is very precious to cancer patients and particularly lung cancer patients. And we don't want to waste time by giving an inefficient therapy," said Dr. Fred Hirsch, professor at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine.

Doctors can do a simple test on the cancer tissue to determine if the patients have a specific gene characteristic. If the test is positive, doctors then know that patient will benefit from the extra drug.

"This is what we call personalized medicine. We know enough about cancer biology to detect specific gene errors in the cancer cells and we're also able to design drug therapies that can fix it," Hirsch told CBS4.

Dr. Yong Chen was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in February of this year. He tested positive on the gene screening and was given the extra drug, cetuximab. He's since gone through strong chemotherapy treatment as well as radiation and surgery. Chen is currently in complete remission from the cancer.

"It opened some doors for treatment and the possibility for a cure that I otherwise would not have been entitled to," Chen told CBS4.

This kind of targeted therapy is the direction that cancer research is headed in the 21st century. Understanding the biology of cancer cells allows doctors to treat each cancer individually, sparing patients from drugs and their side effects that might not be effective for them. Targeted therapy also saves money, allowing doctors to use expensive cancer drugs only in the patients that will most benefit from them.

"We hope with this direction to turn cancer into a disease that you can live with and not die from," Hirsch added.

Researchers at the University of Colorado will soon start another round of testing to validate the findings. They are hoping to get FDA approval for the procedure within 2 years. In the meantime, the EGFR FISH test is readily available at laboratories, so lung cancer patients around the world can be screened to see if they will benefit from the combination of cetuximab and chemotherapy.

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(CBS4denver.com, Reporting Dr. Dave Haida, Producer: Libby Smith, August 4, 2008)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not posted as medical advice of any kind.

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