Personalized medicine, the new trend in medical treatment



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Posted on August 11, 2011 at 6:35 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Personalized medicine is the new trend in medical treatment.  The type of treatment a patient gets depends on their DNA.  Now researchers are trying to find out if that could cure some of the most deadly forms of breast cancer.

"My grandmother had breast cancer.  So because she had breast cancer that was always a focus for me. I always checked, got regular checks," said Keiona Clark, a breast cancer patient.
Even so, 37-year-old Clark was still shocked to find a lump underneath her right arm.
"It's like you know you're going to be okay, but at the same time it makes you kind of accept the fact that you may not," Clark.
She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which is more aggressive and less responsive to standard treatment.  Her doctor didn't make her feel any better.
"She was like, oh my God. That's the worst kind you can have," said Clark.
The usual treatment is surgery, followed by chemotherapy, possibly radiation and as a last resort, a clinical trial.  Dr. Henry Kaplan of the Swedish Cancer Institute says that approach has major drawbacks.
"Once a patients been exposed to multiple drugs, they are more likely to be resistant to chemotherapy, they  may be more resistant to these new drugs. If it's an end stage situation, they're often not able to  tolerate new drugs," said Dr. Kaplan.
The I-SPY clinical trial turns that thinking upside down by actually extracting DNA from a tumor to figure out which new drug will likely work best, then giving it to the patient first, even before surgery.
"The  goal of the I-SPY trial is really to develop a faster  and cheaper way to develop new drugs for breast cancer . We're hoping  that this is a new paradigm that will work for other kinds of cancer too," said Dr. Kaplan.
Since April, Clark has been going through chemotherapy once a week.  She's also taking a pill twice-a-day.  It's left her feeling pretty sick.  But the good news is, she's showing progress and will have surgery next month.
"You can literally see the first MRI compared to the second MRI and you can see the difference in size," said Clark.
"She's had a phenomenal response," said Dr. Kaplan.
Several drug companies are participating in the national I-SPY trial so doctors are better able to customize treatment.
To be eligible, patients have to have aggressive breast cancer that will require chemotherapy.  
To learn more about the I-SPY clinical click here or give Swedish Cancer Institute's clinical research line a call at 206-215-3086.