Advanced gene sequencing test helps clinicians treat cancer

Advanced gene sequencing test helps clinicians treat cancer

News and Articles
Mar 14 2013

The University of Washington and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) partnered to launch UW-OncoPlex – an advanced gene sequencing test to help clinicians treat cancer. The new diagnostic tool is a significant milestone in the development of precision medicine and empowers doctors to predict which treatment therapies will be most effective for an individual patient's cancer. By starting the right treatment as soon as possible, patients at SCCA greatly increase their odds of beating cancer and are saved from experiencing the adverse side effects of unsuccessful treatments. UW-OncoPlex is most commonly used when evaluating treatment plans for melanoma, lung cancer, sarcoma, gastrointestinal cancer, colon cancer, or leukemia.

Driven by high-powered “next generation” genetic sequencing technology, UW-OncoPlex analyzes 194 entire genes for “driver mutations” or genetic abnormalities. Unlike other genetic sequencing tests, UW-OncoPlex is capable of detecting whole gene abnormalities, including deletions, duplications, amplifications, and rearrangements. By identifying these driver mutations that cause tumors to behave differently on a molecular level, doctors can choose the therapy that is known to be most effective in destroying or controlling the patient's tumor type.

“SCCA is at the forefront of precision medicine with this test,” said Dr. Colin Pritchard, University of Washington Assistant Professor of Laboratory Medicine, Associate Director of The Genetics and Solid Tumors Laboratory and lead developer of UW-OncoPlex. “Therapies that will become the standard of care years from now are available today at SCCA as clinical trials. As we identify more driver mutations with actionable targeted therapies, I believe that within 15 years, we'll develop highly effective treatments for some of the most lethal cancers.”

Developed by Dr. Colin Pritchard, in collaboration with Tom Walsh, University of Washington Research Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and Mary-Claire King, University of Washington Professor of Medicine (Medical Genetics) and Genome Sciences, UW-OncoPlex introduces a more precise way of choosing the most effective treatment for patients. This spares the patient from the physical and emotional wear and tear of undergoing treatment that doesn't work or, in some cases, may actually be harmful. By attacking the cancer with an effective agent right away, there's a better chance of containing the cancer and forcing it into remission.

SCCA doctors order a UW-OncoPlex test just as they would any other lab test. If the test result is positive, the doctor will recommend the treatment indicated as most effective for patients whose disease has the same genetic characteristics. Once the patient and SCCA oncologist have discussed the protocol, risks and benefits, treatment can generally begin immediately.

Available to patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance since the fall of 2012, UW-OncoPlex is already proving helpful to doctors treating a variety of diseases, including lung cancer, sarcoma and melanoma. For example, in lung cancer, UW-OncoPlex can identify mutations in three different tumor genes, each with FDA-approved therapies that promote tumor shrinkage two to three times better than chemotherapy. In addition, UW-OncoPlex can identify mutations in over 20 genes that qualify some lung cancer patients for investigational drugs.

“The patient benefit is significant, especially with current survival rates,” said Dr. Renato Martins, Medical Director, Outpatient General Oncology/Hematology at SCCA and Medical Director, Thoracic/Head and Neck Oncology at the University of Washington. “Response from a patient's disease to treatment often lasts between nine and 14 months, which used to be the time lung cancer patients survived – period. In some cases, the disease has remained under control for much longer than 14 months and for these patients it's a huge improvement in expected outcomes.”


University of Washington


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