Cancer Research Helps Minimize Toxic Effects of Chemotherapy
News Apr 20, 2009
A TGen-Scottsdale Healthcare study shows how new screening tools help doctors decide which chemotherapy treatment to give patients based on their genetic makeup.
Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, principal investigator of the nine-site Phoenix-based study, said results show the promise of personalized medicine. “As these tools become more precise and more effective, the value of personalized medicine will increase,” he said. Daniel’s dual role at Scottsdale Healthcare and the Translational Genomics Research Institute brought the two nonprofit organizations together to lead the study. He is physician in chief at TGen and a physician at Scottsdale Healthcare.
The clinical trial involved 66 patients at nine sites throughout the nation, two-thirds of them at Scottsdale Healthcare. The study evaluated the effectiveness of an oncology testing service called Target Now, made by Irving,Texas-based Caris Diagnostics. Caris in 2008 bought Molecular Profiling Institute, a spinout from TGen. Von Hoff also is an executive director of Caris’ Tissue Banking and Analysis Center Inc.
All the patients in the trial had late-stage cancer, including breast, colorectal, ovarian and other solid tumors, and all had failed in prior chemotherapy regimens. For these patients, the study represented a last-ditch effort to find the right chemo cocktail. “These patients didn’t have a lot of treatment options,” Von Hoff said.
Mark Slater, vice president of research at Scottsdale Healthcare, credited collaboration between the organizations for making the study possible. “These are the kinds of things that neither organization could do on their own,” he said. “It’s a groundbreaking preliminary study that really shows the potential for this area of personalized medicine.”
Dr. David Loesch, director of oncology and clinical trials and services for Caris Diagnostics, said the Target Now test will help doctors pick medicine that helps eliminate toxic chemotherapy that patients don’t need. “Now we have a roadmap potentially to treat the patient,” he said.
Von Hoff was in Denver this weekend, presenting his findings at the 100th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. Loesch, also part of the trial, said he and Von Hoff submitted the abstract after the AACR’s deadline. But when reviewers saw the abstract, they thought it needed prominence at the conference, and asked Von Hoff to give an oral presentation in a plenary session, Loesch said.
“Very few papers are allowed to be presented from that standpoint,” he said. “It was a high-enough rated abstract. The implications are so great they felt this needed to be presented as an oral presentation to the entire assembly,” he said, estimating there would be as many as 10,000 oncologists and cancer researchers at the event.
Most trials of this stature are funded by the National Institutes of Health, but this trial was funded locally, said John Ferree, president of Scottsdale Healthcare Foundation. Jerry Bisgrove, CEO of the Stardust Foundation in Scottsdale, gave Scottdsale Healthcare $5 million for cancer research.
Ferree said about $4 million went to pay for the trial, while another $1 million went to support the Debi Bisgrove Cancer Care Coordinator position, in honor of Bisgrove’s wife, who died of cancer in January 2007.
“Research never pays for itself, no matter what you do,” Bisgrove said. “We’re very dependent upon philanthropy. We’ve been very fortunate here to have had some people step up and really put some hard money into research.”
Ferree estimates thousands of donors have contributed more than $30 million to Scottsdale Healthcare Foundation for infrastructure, programs and services in its oncology initiative.
“Incredible life-changing and life-saving research is currently being done around the world that quietly began at Scottsdale Healthcare,” he said. “Neither that research nor any other research being done here would have ever been possible without the generous philanthropic support of people like Debi and Jerry Bisgrove and the Stardust Foundation.”
In a new study in cells, University of Illinois researchers have adapted CRISPR gene-editing technology to cause the cell’s internal machinery to skip over a small portion of a gene when transcribing it into a template for protein building. This gives researchers a way not only to eliminate a mutated gene sequence, but to influence how the gene is expressed and regulated.