When Jeff’s doctor showed him an MRI of his brain, both could see a tumor the size of a lemon. Jeff was told he needed to go the hospital immediately. Tests and scans revealed Jeff had lung cancer, which had spread to his brain. After surgery, whole brain radiation and five chemotherapy sessions, Jeff’s lung tumor began to grow again. When it was sent out for genetic testing though, Jeff found out that his tumor had a mutated form of the ALK gene, and that a targeted therapy existed to treat it. He enrolled in a clinical trial to begin treatment. “It worked wonderfully,” says Jeff. After four years of treatment, he continues to do well.
Jeff is one of several patients whose stories are featured on the new Precision Cancer Medicine micro-site, a small cluster of web pages where referring physicians and patients can find resources, including clinical trials, to help pinpoint therapeutic agents designed to precisely target and treat an individual’s cancer.
The Precision Cancer Medicine micro-site, an initiative of the Dana-Farber Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), reflects the center’s commitment to pursuing advances in cancer genetics to improve patient care. Clinicians at DF/BWCC can utilize DNA sequencing and other tumor molecular profiling technologies to create a “tumor profile” of the genetic changes in an individual patient’s cancer. This profile can help clinicians select a specific therapeutic agent to target a patient’s tumor.
The site offers portals for patients and referring physicians with access to simple tools to make complicated information accessible. Resources for physicians include information about continuing medical education offerings, cancer care videos and more. Patients can find a list of questions to ask their doctors and information about genetics and the precision cancer medicine approach. The site also allows patients and physicians to find clinical trials that focus on targeted therapies.
Targeted therapies, like the one Jeff is taking, are transforming patient care and advancing the field of precision medicine. Ten years ago, researchers at DF/BWCC uncovered a separate mutation in a gene called EGFR that helped bring the power of precision medicine to bear on lung cancer. Today, new targeted therapies for lung cancer and other forms of cancer continue to be developed.
“Our goal is to provide the right therapy at the right time to each patient,” said Jeffrey Golden, MD, chair of Pathology at BWH. “We are focused on finding targeted treatments for each individual’s cancer and delivering on the promise of precision cancer medicine.”