Beating Cancer: Can Genes be Used to Develop Treatment Plans?

For many years, patients who received a cancer diagnosis faced long odds against survival. While much advancement has been made in the treatment of certain cancers, research continues in an effort to find more effective methods. With more aggressive cancers, patients may seek out alternative treatment plans to increase their chance of beating the disease.

Duke University conducted research that proposed a radical way of attacking cancers present within the study’s participants by studying the make-up of the cancer cells within each patient. The patients’ cancers would be examined, and then doctors would prescribe a treatment plan based upon the gene patterns present in the cancer cells. In essence, the doctors were trying to find which medicines would have the most impact in the shortest amount of time.

The main proponents, Dr. Anil Potti and Joseph R. Nevins, published their study in 2006, claiming that it had been a great success. The physicians started three clinical trials where some of their methods were put in place. The entire cancer community was increasingly excited about the potential the study offered.

However, when other physicians and organizations reviewed the study, several potential problems began to emerge. After a four-year period of scrutiny and review, the entire study was discredited due to unreliable data. Duke shut down the trials, and redacted the published research. Some of the study’s participants died while receiving treatment proscribed by the Duke team, leading to several medical malpractice lawsuits against the university.

While initially offering great promise, gene research continues to try to find a way to accurately diagnose and treat different types of cancer. Those who have the disease are encouraged to speak to their physicians to learn about the best potential treatment options available. Do not be afraid to seek a second or third opinion, as often different doctors will have different ideas that may be helpful for you.

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