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Saint Joseph Mercy Cancer Research Consortium joins first-of-its kind clinical trial

Saint Joseph Mercy Health System’s Michigan Cancer Research Consortium — including Saint Joseph Mercy Brighton — is participating in a genetic mutation study called the National Cancer Institute’s Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice program, or NCI-MATCH, to identify and target specific DNA mutations in patients’ tumors.

Genomic-based clinical trials such as NCI-MATCH are a growing field of study in which researchers are determining if treating patients based on the genomic make-up of a tumor rather than the site of the cancer—such as lung or breast–can be effective, especially for patients whose cancers is not responding to standard treatment protocols.

“Traditionally, chemotherapy has used a broad approach to fighting the spread of cancer cells,” said Philip Stella, principal investigator for the Michigan Cancer Research Consortium at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. “This study indicates the new direction in cancer treatment in which physicians are going beyond standard treatment to attack genetic mutations. This is a major game changer, and gives patients more options.”

A tumor could have up to 200 different mutations, and treating it based on mutation instead of disease site may enable doctors to better target the treatment plan. If a cancer then mutates in an effort to “outsmart” the anti-cancer treatment, the medication can continue to be adjusted to adapt to the current mutations and keep the cancer from growing.

“Although we’ve made advancements over the past 20 years, for so many cancers we’ve only been able to extend someone’s life a few months or a year,” Stella said.  “If this works, we may be able to prolong survival much longer or turn a cancer diagnosis from a terminal condition to just a chronic condition.”

The drugs included in the trial have all either been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for another cancer indication or are still being tested in other clinical trials but have shown some effectiveness against tumors with a particular genetic alteration.

Qualifying patients are adults 18 years of age and older with advanced solid tumors and lymphomas that are no longer responding, or never responded, to standard therapy and continue to grow. St. Joe’s anticipates evaluating hundreds of patients over the next few months.

For more information including a list of current clinical trials, call 734-712-5658 or click here.

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