Testing drugs leads to personalized cancer treatments

Precise News

Despite advances in standard cancer treatments, many cancer patients still face uncertain outcomes when these treatments prove ineffective.
But if those standard treatments fail, patients and doctors enter a trial-and-error maze where effective treatments become difficult to predict because of limited information on the patient’s cancer.
What is functional precision medicine?
New clinical trial results Providing functional precision medicine to cancer patients in real life is very challenging.
The health of cancer patients can also deteriorate rapidly, and physicians may be hesitant to try new methods.
Most recently, my team’s clinical trial focused on childhood cancer patients whose cancer came back or didn’t respond to treatment.
I, along with colleague Noah E. Berlow, have started to add artificial intelligence to our functional precision medicine program.
The more data we have, the easier it will become to understand how to best treat cancer and ultimately help more patients access personalized cancer treatments.


Cancer continues to be the leading cause of disease-related mortality for children in the United States, despite numerous attempts to discover new, more effective treatments for it. s.

Additionally, cancer patients are living longer. Over the past 30 years, there has been an approximately 80% global increase in the diagnosis of cancer in people under 50. The second-leading cause of death in the United States as of 2023 is cancer. S. and everywhere in the world. Although cancer death rates have declined in recent decades, approximately one in three patients in the U.S. S. and cancer still claims the lives of 1 in 2 patients worldwide.

Even with advancements in conventional cancer treatments, many cancer patients continue to face uncertain prognoses in the event that these treatments fail. Most cancer types are treated with a combination of radiation, surgery, and medications, depending on the patient’s medical history, the cancer’s stage, and its location. However, in the event that those conventional therapies prove ineffective, patients and physicians are plunged into a confusing and sometimes dangerous trial-and-error process, as the patient’s cancer diagnosis makes it harder to determine which treatments will be most effective.

Creating a customized list of the best medications for each cancer patient is my goal as a cancer researcher. To do this, my colleagues and I test various drugs on the cancer cells of the patient prior to treatment, allowing us to customize therapies that have the best chance of killing tumors only while causing the fewest side effects.

We discovered that functional precision medicine—a method of matching patients with more FDA-approved treatment options—can greatly improve outcomes in the first clinical trial that combines drug sensitivity testing and DNA testing to find effective treatments for children with cancer. The results of this trial were recently published.

How does functional precision medicine work?

The same cancer treatment may not always result in the same outcome for two patients. It can be difficult to determine the most effective course of treatment because every patient’s tumor is different.

In order to match cancer patients with the appropriate medication, physicians examine DNA mutations found in the patient’s tumor, blood, or saliva. Precision medicine is the term for this strategy. It is a complicated relationship, though, between cancer DNA and the efficacy of medications to treat it. It ignores additional genetic and nongenetic mechanisms that affect how cells react to medications when prescribing drugs to patients based on a single mutation.

Finding the best way to match patients’ DNA to medications remains a significant challenge. Treatments matching tumor DNA mutations only benefit about 10% of cancer patients clinically overall.

Customizing care is approached differently in functional precision medicine. Using a biopsy sample from the patient, my colleagues and I cultivate the cancer cells in the lab and subject them to more than a hundred FDA-approved medications. We search for the drugs that kill cancer cells using a procedure known as drug sensitivity testing.

fresh findings from a clinical study.

It is extremely difficult to provide cancer patients with functional precision medicine in the real world. Two major obstacles are the use of drugs off-label and financial constraints. Cancer patients’ condition can also worsen quickly, and doctors might be reluctant to try novel treatments.

This is beginning to change, though. Recently, two European teams demonstrated that 55 percent of adult patients with blood cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, who did not respond to conventional treatments could be effectively treated with functional precision medicine.

The clinical trial that my team conducted most recently was directed toward children with cancer whose disease returned or did not respond to therapy. We used our functional precision medicine approach on twenty-five cancer patients of various kinds.

We could offer nearly all patients treatment options in less than two weeks, as demonstrated by our trial. My coworker Arlet Maria Acanda de la Rocha played a crucial role in ensuring that patients received drug sensitivity information as soon as possible. Results from standard genomic testing, which focuses on identifying specific cancer mutations, usually take around 30 days to process; however, we were able to provide test results within 10 days of receiving a sample.

The most significant finding of our research was that 83 percent of cancer patients treated with our approach showed clinical benefit, such as increased survival and response.

growing and entering the actual world.

Novel avenues for comprehending how to better match cancer medications to patients are made possible by functional precision medicine. Even though doctors can now read the DNA of any patient, it is far more difficult to interpret the results to predict how a patient will react to cancer treatment. Individualized cancer treatments can be achieved by combining DNA analysis and drug sensitivity testing.

Along with my coworker Noah E. We at Berlow have begun integrating artificial intelligence into our program for functional precision medicine. We can better match patients with individualized treatments and medication combinations by analyzing each patient’s data thanks to artificial intelligence. Additionally, artificial intelligence (AI) helps us comprehend the intricate relationships between DNA mutations within tumors and how various treatments impact them.

I have initiated two clinical trials with my team to extend the findings from our earlier research on using functional precision medicine to recommend treatments. A greater number of adults and children with cancers that have returned or are resistant to treatment are being recruited for this cohort.

Our understanding of the optimal ways to treat cancer will improve with increased data, which will eventually enable more patients to receive personalized cancer treatments.

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