Personalizing cancer treatments has long been heralded as a way to improve survivor rates and limit detrimental side effects. This is largely due to a particular patient’s level of sensitivity to the drugs prescribed. In an effort to better predict this sensitivity, researchers at MIT went digging through our DNA.
Presently, there are two tactics used for predicting the effectiveness of a particular cancer treatment. The first is done by performing laboratory tests on the tumor cells. The second involves screening for genetic mutations and gene activity levels related to drug sensitivity.
In an effort to provide more accurate and faster genetic information, the team at MIT used microarray analysis to simultaneously look at 20,000 genes in our DNA. Then, through the use of a computer algorithm, the genes most related to drug sensitivity were identified. In total, 48 genes were found to significantly effect a patient’s receptiveness to chemotherapy.
The research indicates that these 48 genes can be used to better predict the effectiveness of cancer treatments on specific patients. The process also benefits from being remarkably fast and easy to obtain. More importantly, the procedure improves the accuracy of sensitivity to 94 percent. Current practices are estimated to offer an accuracy of about 60 percent.
These results were taken by studying the blood samples of 24 diverse cancer patients. The team at MIT now hopes to expand the research to include hundreds of participants. Eventually, the procedure may lead to clinical trials.
Chemotherapy Gets Personal
A recent study sheds some insight into the background rates of mesothelioma over the past several decades in the United States. The study looked at patterns for males and females in five age groups.
According to the study performed by Exponent Inc., a health sciences practice in New York City, mesothelioma rates remained relatively constant for young individuals. Rates of older age groups declined overtime and male rates were about five times greater than female rates for individuals 60 years of age and older. Overall rates of mesothelioma were higher among large shipyard areas located on the West Coast. In total, the background rate of the deadly cancer was found to be around one individual per million for the American citizens below the age of 50. Estimations for older ages will require additional studies.
The data for the study was collected via the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registry and pertains to data collected between 1973 and 2002. SEER is a program dedicated to collecting and publishing cancer cases and survival data. The data they collect is exhaustive, and encompasses 26 percent of the United States population. The program has also taken considerable measures to unify the network of cancer registry systems so that population-based data may be more easily accessible. It is this accessibility that allowed the researchers to investigate these mesothelioma trends.
The International Mesothelioma Interest Group (IMIG) meets on a yearly basis to discuss cutting-edge news related to the deadly cancer known as malignant mesothelioma. Over the past few years, the IMIG has become increasingly confident and optimistic about current and upcoming mesothelioma treatment processes.
Key factors related to effective treatment of mesothelioma that the IMIG sites as important include early detection, reliable diagnosis, initiating proper staging procedures and effective post-treatment monitoring. Many recent advances have become accessible that assist these key aspects of treatment.
One such step is a procedure known as immunohistochemistry (IHC). This relatively new procedure greatly improves the accuracy of malignant mesothelioma diagnosis and has become a standardized step in the process. Imaging tactics have also improved. Researchers are particularly optimistic about CT scan imaging and its ability to deliver more accurate data about tumor size.
The IMIG is also excited about the prospects of screening biological markers. Recent studies have linked certain proteins – such as serum mesothelin-related protein (SMRP) – to an elevated risk for mesothelioma. Using biological markers to search for such proteins is expected to facilitate early detection and monitoring.
As new research findings continue to pour in, doctors and researchers continue to craft more effective ways to identify, treat and monitor malignant mesothelioma. These new tactics are leading the way towards improved survival rates and decreased chemotherapy side effects.