For cancer treatment and more, genetic-based precision medicine holds a lot of promise

Source: Connecticut Magazine, May 2020

A month following surgery for thyroid cancer, a Hartford Hospital patient’s tumor grew to 10 inches. The case was presented to the hospital’s tumor board, which involved 30 doctors from different specialties.

The gene mutation found to be controlling the patient’s tumor growth was already well-established as a driver of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, says Dr. Sope Olugbile, medical oncologist at Hartford HealthCare. Chemotherapy wouldn’t work fast enough against the aggressive tumor. Tumor board members recommended a targeted therapy already treating patients with melanoma. “Without that genetic information, we wouldn’t have been able to come up with that therapy,” he says. The treatment saved the patient’s life, so far. “Our goal is to use more of the genetic information to drive the treatment of cancer patients.”

This type of personalized care, known as precision medicine and its subset, genomic medicine, has been offered for years at world-renowned cancer-treatment hospitals such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. It’s now the standard of care in Connecticut’s Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, UConn Health Center in Farmington, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford and Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Health. “Cancer therapy has become precision therapy,” says Dr. Roy Herbst, professor of medicinal oncology and pharmacology, and chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital.