Nationwide Trial Targets Cancer in a New Way

September 28, 2015

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New cancer trial targets gene abnormalities.

Most cancer treatments focus on the location of cancer within the body, but a new National Cancer Institute (NCI) trial is looking at the disease in a completely different way – by what specific gene abnormality may have caused the cancer in the first place, regardless of what organ it’s affecting.

The Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice (MATCH) precision medicine trial is now available to patients in St. Louis, Springfield, Bolivar, Branson and Joplin across several hospital systems.  It’s part of Cancer Research of the Ozarks’ participation in ongoing NCI studies.

“This trial is absolutely cutting-edge,” said Dr. Jay Carlson, a Mercy gynecologic oncologist who serves as principal investigator for Cancer Research of the Ozarks.  “It’s the next generation of cancer treatment and being able to offer it to our patients is so exciting.”

To qualify for the trial’s genetic screening, patients should be 18 years of age or older with any type of solid tumor or lymphoma that has returned or gotten worse after standard therapy. Those with rare cancer types for which there is no standard treatment may also be eligible for screening. Patients will need a new biopsy so their tumor cells can undergo genetic testing to determine whether they contain one of the gene mutations being studied. Researchers expect only one-third of those screened will actually qualify for the study, which is enrolling 3,000 nationwide.

“This is really for patients who have exhausted conventional treatments or who have a rare or particularly aggressive form of cancer,” Dr. Carlson explained. “This offers them new hope, because now there is another option to consider.”

Right now, the trial is studying 10 new drugs with 12 more on the way. These drugs are not chemotherapy medications – some target enzymes or pathways where there may be a gene mutation. “Patients have never seen these drugs before,” Dr. Carlson said. “In many cases, they’re in tablet form so patients won’t have to wait through long infusions in a clinic. They can medicate themselves at home.”

The trial is offered through Cancer Research of the Ozarks, an NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) that provides cancer research options to patients across Missouri. The NCORP facilitates patients’ genetic testing as well as staff training, laboratory services, trial assignments, biostatistical support, data management auditing, quality control and public awareness.

To find out more about where the trial is offered, call (417) 269-4520 or go online to this list of participating health care providers.

Cancer Research for the Ozarks (CRO) was founded in 1987 by a grant from the National Institute of Health, National Cancer Institute (NCI). In 2014, CRO was selected to be one of only 34 community sites in the United States to participate in the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), which brings cancer clinical trials and cancer care delivery research to individuals in their own communities. CRO was established as a cooperative venture between Mercy and CoxHealth and now covers 33 primary service counties and 33 secondary service counties in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Illinois.

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