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Is Cancer Outwitting 'Personalized Medicine'?
Date:3/7/2012

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- The genetic makeup of cancer cells differs significantly from region to region within a single tumor, according to new research that raises questions about the true potential of personalized cancer medicine.

With this treatment approach, doctors study a tumor's genetic makeup to determine which drugs would work best in a particular patient. But if the genetic mutations driving the cancer cells vary widely, a single tissue sample won't necessarily give the full picture.

This "targeted therapy" involves "sticking a needle into the primary tumor site and taking a small sliver of a tumor, doing a gene analysis, and creating a genetic profile of the tumor to predict how the tumor will behave," explained Dr. Dan Longo, an oncologist and deputy editor at the New England Journal of Medicine.

"What this paper tells us is that is an oversimplification of the complexity of tumors and their heterogeneity," he said. "If you look at different sites of the very same tumor and the very same person, one site might tell you a gene profile associated with a good prognosis and the other site will tell you a gene profile associated with a bad prognosis."

Longo wrote an editorial accompanying the new study, published in the March 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the study, scientists from Cancer Research UK London Research Institute took 13 biopsies, or tissue samples, from a patient whose kidney cancer had spread. The biopsies were from eight regions of the kidney tumor and four tumors in the chest and lungs.

Researchers also took normal tissue, sequenced the patient's genome and compared that to what they found in the biopsies.

Genetic analysis turned up 128 mutations in the tumors. But only about one-third, or about 40 of those mutations, were present in all of the biopsies.

"The majority
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