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SD Oncologists Test Genetic Approach to Treating Cancer

A person's genetic profile could hold the key for precision cancer treatment. (Andy Leppard/Flickr)
A person's genetic profile could hold the key for precision cancer treatment. (Andy Leppard/Flickr)
May 22, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Cancer treatment for some patients could lie within their DNA. Sanford Health locations in the Dakotas are participating in a clinical trial known as the "Targeted Agent and Profiling Utilization Registry," or TAPUR study.

Dr. Steven Powell, a medical oncologist and principal investigator at Sanford, called the treatment "precision cancer therapy". He said cancer types often are grouped together - such as lung cancer. But no two lung cancers are alike; they actually differ at the genetic level. So, Powell explained, researchers have inverted the process for treatment.

"We've learned that you may be able to treat one type of cancer entirely different than another type of cancer,” Powell said. "And this study is actually building upon that and saying, 'Let's look at the molecular level. Let's look at the genes that are mutated and try to pick drugs that are going to match up with those gene mutations,' and focus on that rather than the specific cancer itself."

Powell said Sanford is looking for participants for the study, especially people for whom standard treatment hasn't worked. He added they will soon start clinical studies on adolescent cancer patients as well.

To enroll, people can call 1-87-SURVIVAL. Powell is running the trial at the Sioux Falls-area Sanford Health location.

The trial begins with a genetic profile of the participant. Then, researchers identify the mutation that is most likely causing the cancer. Most cancers are caused by damage to DNA, such as from sun or radiation; although Powell said some people are born with mutations that will eventually cause cancer. He said genetic testing has provided an effective new avenue for cancer treatment.

"When anybody has a cancer that's been determined incurable, I think it's really important to think about genetic testing on that tumor - because it can potentially open up doors to treatment,” Powell said. "And hopefully the more people that get tested, we can identify more of these gene mutations that we can intervene on, and hopefully we can improve our treatments for cancer."

Seven pharmaceutical companies have volunteered to provide medications for the trial.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - SD