Precision medicine collaboration a promising opportunity for advancing cancer research


by Steve Jacob

May 26, 2015

The announcement of an agreement to accelerate cancer-treatment research between Baylor Research Institute (BRI) at Dallas and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is promising for cancer patients in North Texas and beyond.

The hope is that aligning the best science of both institutions will lead to one-of-a-kind clinical trials and give patients greater access to liquid biopsies, gene sequencing and personalized vaccines.

BRI and TGen will collaborate on precision medicine, also called personalized medicine. This is an emerging practice that uses a patient’s genetic profile to guide treatment decisions. Knowledge of a patient’s genetic profile can help doctors select the proper medication or therapy and administer it in a customized way.

In other words, the goal is to provide the right treatment in the right dose to the right patient at the right time.

Traditional medicine uses ‘standards of care,’ or the best courses of prevention or treatment for the average person. If one treatment does not work, doctors and patients use trial and error to find the right one. Meanwhile, a life is on the line. Personalized medicine is a direct approach to finding the most effective course of treatment.

Personalizing Treatment to Save Lives

After being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, Donna Lawson spent years of her life undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment, only to have the cancer subside and then return more aggressively. When the oncology team at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center recommended a new clinical trial, Lawson found renewed hope. In collaboration with TGen, a personalized cancer treatment was developed using the genomic information about her cancer.

In October of 2013, Lawson received great news: her first clear report. She was cancer free.

Donna is living proof that applying genetics to medicine may improve human health. In the video below, learn more about how this precision medicine collaboration will increase options for cancer patients at Baylor Scott & White Health.

Alan Miller, MD, PhD, director at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, said the joint effort will concentrate on three research areas: women’s cancer, including breast and gynecological; abdominal malignancies, including pancreatic, colorectal and liver; and hematological cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

Dr. Alan Miller quote

What does this mean for cancer patients?

  • More clinical trials in Dallas. There are 125–150 clinical trials underway at Baylor Sammons Cancer Center at any given time. Of those, 15–25 are Phase I trials, which test new drugs or treatments in small groups of people to evaluate safety, dosage and side effects. The hope is to double the number of Phase I trials and double the number of patients involved in those trials.
  • Greater participation in U.S. clinical trials by cancer patients. Only 3 percent of U.S. cancer patients are in clinical trials. At Baylor Scott & White, that figure is 15 percent, said Dr. Miller. The strong local participation rate, multiplied by the greater number of clinical trials created by the collaboration, will translate into richer research results benefiting cancer patients worldwide.
  • Greater hope. Long-term survival is not the only measure of success in a clinical trial. Some patients will conquer their cancer. Others will survive longer than they would have using only existing therapies. Successful response also offers hope of greater success with future patients if cancer is caught at an earlier stage.

About the Author

Steve is a senior marketing and public relations consultant for Baylor Scott & White Health. He spent nearly four decades in newspaper and magazine editorial and business management and is the author of two books on healthcare reform. He was also the founding editor of D Magazine's D Healthcare Daily.

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