Could Genetics Play a Role in Chemotherapy for Stage Four Cancer Patients?

A new approach to treating patients who have stage four cancer could revolutionise the way chemotherapy is administered in the future. The current model used to treat cancer is known as ‘germ theory’ and focuses on destroying the foreign cancer cells like an infection, by using an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy that not been typed genetically to the patient. This new approach uses a molecular profiling test which examines the genetic and molecular changes unique to a patient’s tumor, so that treatment options may be exactly matched to the tumor’s molecular profile. This is a fundamentally different way of treating cancer patients, even though the chemotherapy drugs used are the same. A company called Envita, based in the US, show that standard chemotherapy is about 75% ineffective in patients whose treatments were not typed. The problem is that whilst the treatment is ineffective, the cancer is still damaging the health of the patient.

Moreover, it is known that large doses of chemotherapy can cause damage within a patient’s body. The collateral damage to healthy cells is devastating and sometimes can be worse than the cancer itself, particularly in regard to the destruction and disabling of the immune system – the one natural mechanism your body normally uses to fight cancer cells every day. The current treatment available to stage four cancer sufferers is a regimen of aggressive chemotherapy treatments which involve a combination of four drugs, called MOPP protocol. These were seen to work successfully with Hodgkin’s disease during the preliminary years of cancer research. But Professor Dr. Guy B. Faguet comments, “This early success was seldom replicated despite myriad, subsequent clinical trials launched to test a variety of intermittent combination chemotherapy regimens in many types of cancer over the ensuing four decades.” When chemotherapy is used in this traditional way, “though most patients achieve some degree of tumor response, few survive longer as a result.”

Typically, we do not know whether a patient will respond favorably to any particular chemotherapy treatment as chemotherapy drugs have historically been tested, dosed, and incorporated into treatment protocols based on trial-and-error approaches. This has resulted in a single or a range of recommended dosages based on averages from clinical studies in large populations. All well and good if the patient does respond but for those who do not, they have wasted valuable time and time is one thing a stage four cancer patient does not have a limitless supply of. Plus, they are also having to suffer the unnecessary and devastating side effects that chemotherapy involves. Thankfully, there have been recent advances in pharmacogenetic research that may eliminate the randomness in chemotherapy treatment. Through genetic testing, specific gene expression patterns can be identified in patients that will predict specific drug response. These genetic indicators can help physicians find the optimal drug or drug combination that will combat the precise tumor in a given individual with the benefit of optimal results and greatly reduced side effects. Specific genetic differences can show whether a patient has a high or low metabolic response to a drug, or whether the cancer itself is resistant to certain drugs. There is a huge amount of information that can be gleaned from knowing a person’s genetic make up in the fight against stage four cancer.

Envita has been refining these techniques with great success for several years, and we believe it will become standard of care in the future. To find out more information please visit the home page of Envita.