Genetic Fingerprinting Could Be A Big Help In The Fight Against Cancer

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — A tiny sample of cancerous DNA could help determine which drugs will work against an individual tumor.

It isn’t science fiction and it’s being done right now, CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

Not all breast, lung, bone, or other cancers are alike. The cancers may occur in the same organ, but that doesn’t mean that they will respond to the same medicine.

Now, doctors can analyze the genetic fingerprint of many cancers and determine which treatment has the best chance of working.

Ray Thomas is a high school football coach and he takes his role as a mentor very seriously. Thomas doesn’t smoke or drink and he doesn’t allow his players to either.

Thomas was surprised when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. His need for an effective medicine was urgent.

“At that time he knew exactly what it was. He was prepared with the drug. I had the drug within 48-hours and I’ve been taking it ever since,” he said.

The drug was a simple pill and it has helped to shrink and contain Ray’s lung cancer.

Doctors put a tiny sample of Ray’s tumor DNA on a chip and ran it through a machine that allowed them to pinpoint the best possible medicine.

Greg Otterson M.D., a doctor at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center- James Cancer Hospital & Solove Research Institute, explained how the technology works.

“They can run, not just one tube for one reaction for one gene, but one tube does, actually 50 genes,” Dr. Otterson said.

Doctors look for specific mutations in different genes which allow them to better determine which drugs will work best for different patients.

Since most lung cancer patients are diagnosed in the later stages, it is crucial that doctors get the treatments right the first time.

“I can have some confidence that I’m going to do some good for this particular patient in this chair because of their cancer,” Dr. Otterson said, “Not because of lung cancer in general, but because of the cancer that this particular patient bears.”

Almost as important as finding out which drugs work is finding out which drugs won’t work. Doing so can spare a patient untold expenses and potentially nasty side effects.

So far, the treatment has worked for Ray.

As doctors identify more specific mutations in cancer cells the technique will continue to be used in the future.

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