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California Oncology Group Uses New Technology to Choose Best Cancer Treatment
Date:4/1/2011

ab. We just need some biopsied cancer cells or - if we're dealing with leukemia - blood," said Dr. Swapnil Rajurkar, lead medical investigator for Wilshire. "I get the results back from the lab saying, 'These drugs are likely to work and these are not.'" Rajurkar explained that breast cancer has about 10 approved drug treatments. It's up to the individual oncologist, depending on what's known about the patient's condition and the doctor's experience, to decide which treatments are used first.

"This is invaluable information," Bosserman said. "One of our biggest challenges is when we treat people we go by guidelines, but individual patients' tumors are unique and personal. By being able to find out what chemotherapies the patients might be responsive to, and what they are not going to respond to, we can save them weeks and months of getting treatment that is not going to help them - all of which have side effects and will decrease their quality of life.

"We're actually going into active treatment with one of the health plans where they're going to pay for this test ahead of time in patients and keep track of this additional data on how patients do," Bosserman said. "This means that for future patients, if the test says the drug will work, it will work."

On the flip side, if the test reveals a drug is useless against an individual's cancer, that patient would not have to go through an ineffective treatment. "This information really helps patients make decisions, especially if facing very advanced cancer where, we know a lot of times, those last-ditch treatments don't help patients and take up their valuable days of life," she said. "It really helps patients realize that they are not giving up hope, but can choose aggressive palliative care rather than treatment that really won't help them. The test offers the promise of adding more information to help guide better treatment decisions for patients."

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