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Study That Looks at Genetic Variations in Patients Experiencing Chemotherapy Side Effects May Lead to Personalized Mesothelioma Treatment in the Future

Mesothelioma X-rayAccording to many researchers and physicians, the only real way to successfully combat mesothelioma and other cancers is through personalized medicine.  Targeting treatment to a patient’s unique genetic characteristics optimizes the potential for success of the treatment and can extend a patient’s survival.  Now, researchers have found a way to use a patient’s DNA to minimize chemotherapy side effects, giving the medical field another breakthrough leading toward personalized treatment. 

“In the search for ways to “personalise” anti-cancer treatments, much of the focus has been on matching the treatment to the cancer. However it should not be forgotten that we also need to ensure the treatment is “matched” to the patient,” said David Cameron, from the University of Edinburgh and Chairman of the 8th European Breast Cancer Conference where the findings will be presented.  Cameron noted that this research is an important step in that direction. 

The researchers, led by Dr. Christof Vulsteke, from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, examined the “germline” DNA in over 1,000 breast cancer patients treated with three commonly used chemotherapy drugs (fluorouracil, epirubicin and cyclophosphamide). They then compared the variability in the genes that is key to metabolizing the chemotherapy with the side effects the patients experienced. 

They found that the genetic variation in one gene was highly correlated with chemotherapy side effects.  This finding will allow physicians the ability to specialize the chemotherapy drug, dosage and cycles to each patient, and not deliver the “standard” that is common when treating cancer patients today. 

“Investigating this gene before starting chemotherapy would allow us to support the patient with either growth factors to increase the patient’s immunity, or dose modifications, or a different chemotherapy regimen better adapted to the patient, or a combination of these,” said Vulsteke. 

Much more research needs to be conducted, and results of this study will not be finalized until 2016.  The researchers also intend to expand the scope of their research by looking at additional chemotherapy drugs. 

The research thus far, “has brought us one step closer towards prescribing personalised chemotherapy treatment with a minimum of side effects,” says Dr Vulsteke. 

This news comes on the heels of Duke University researchers reporting they found a means to deliver chemo directly into the cancerous tumors allowing for a lower dosage, thus limiting the toxicity of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is one of the primary treatments for mesothelioma, but the medicine is toxic and attacks healthy cells as well as cancerous cells leaving patients to battle numerous side effects. 

Mesothelioma advocates turn to studies like these in hopes that an effective treatment will soon be available to mesothelioma patients.  Mesothelioma is a very serious condition that requires a multi-modal treatment plan consisting of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Though these methods can reduce pain and extend a patient’s life, they do not yet offer a cure. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year.


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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 4 years. Follow Nancy on Google+

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