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Genomic alterations could lead to a brave new world for cancer treatment

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by Cancer Research UK | News

23 October 2015

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A new conference helping doctors navigate one of the most important scientific questions faced by the cancer community could help improve survival rates for patients.

“This conference is an exciting new step for Cancer Research UK, bringing together the best minds in cancer genomics from around the world to help find new ways to treat cancers

A joint initiative of UNICANCER, ESMO and Cancer Research UK, the meeting on Molecular Analysis for Personalised therapy (MAP), to be held in Paris 23-24 October, will explore clinical interpretation of molecular tests for cancers that have spread.

By learning more about their patients’ genetic makeup, doctors hope to develop more effective and customised strategies for prevention, screening and therapy. In addition, these techniques strive to lower treatment side effects.

The development of new biotechnologies has revolutionised the applications of personalised therapy in advanced cancer that has spread.

It is now possible to perform multigene sequencing for cancer patients, either in clinical trials or in routine use, and the knowledge gained will help clinicians prescribe therapies specifically adapted for each individual patient’s case, which could reduce overall treatment costs and ultimately provide better care.

The meeting will bring together global experts from Europe, North America and Asia to discuss the significant cancer research currently underway.

Professor Fabrice André, co-founder of the Gustave Roussy Institute in Villejuif, explained why the programme of this new meeting was so vital, helping medical oncologists translate latest clinical research into applicable medical treatment approaches.

Professor André said: “Patients are being offered some genomic tests that are now available and there is no education for the oncologists to interpret these tests,” Professor André said. “We want to educate and share some ways of interpreting the genomic data from the patients.”

The results of genomic research have already yielded results for new cancer therapies.

Co-founder Professor Jean-Charles Soria, also of Gustave Roussy Institute, said: “There are many trials that have led to the registration of targeted therapies on the basis of the identification of an oncogene driver. 

“This is the case for HER2 amplification and breast cancer, not only with trastuzumab but also with pertuzumab or TDM1. It’s also the case with lung cancer with EGFR mutation and EGFR inhibitors, ALK translocation and ALK inhibitors and the list can go beyond in solid tumours expanding to melanoma, GIST and others.”

Because each person’s sequencing may show a myriad of mutations, many of which may be rare or unique, precision cancer medicine is a highly complex process, explained co-founder Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK scientist based at the Francis Crick Institute.

Professory Soria added: “The purpose of this conference is to start to have discussions on what classifies a drug target, how one uses cancer genome sequencing in clinical practice, how one exploits the data for patient benefit and how one feeds this information back to patients.”

Dr Ian Walker, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said: “This conference is an exciting new step for Cancer Research UK, bringing together the best minds in cancer genomics from around the world to help find new ways to treat cancers. We’re on the cusp of discoveries that could revolutionise the way cancers are treated, enabling us to target the genetic make-up of some patients’ tumours. And we’re doing all we can to ensure these discoveries reach the clinic and patients sooner.”


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