Genomics allows individualize treatments for cancer patients, explains Dr. Howard Lim, medical oncologist, BC Cancer.

Genomics allows individualize treatments for cancer patients, explains Dr. Howard Lim, medical oncologist, BC Cancer.

Breaking down cancer with genomics

Donor funding has played a pivotal role in advancing genomics research

“It was like a miracle.”

Trish Keating was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2010 and after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, she was told in 2013 when her cancer returned that it was terminal.

After enrolling in the Personalized Onco-Genomics (POG) Program at BC Cancer, the team of experts discovered Trish’s cancer was driven by a specific protein. They then identified and administered an existing blood pressure medication that is known to block pathways to that protein.

The results were rapid and dramatic: eight weeks after starting her new treatment, Trish was tumour-free.

“It’s still so hard to believe,” says Trish. “I was months away from death.”

Trish’s experience is just one example of how genomics – where experts deploy whole genome analysis to inform individual treatment planning for patients – is transforming cancer care for people across B.C.

“The use of genomics is trying to understand the blueprint – what we call the genome – to a cancer, and by understanding that blueprint we can then start to individualize treatments for patients,” says Dr. Howard Lim, medical oncologist, BC Cancer. “Genomics will change not only how we treat cancer, but also how we detect and prevent cancer.”

Cancer genomes are as unique as a fingerprint, and no two genomes are identical. Therefore, says Dr. Lim, cancer treatment can no longer be one-size-fits-all.

“We’re beginning to understand that not all cancers are the same and certain ones respond differently to different treatments, or don’t respond at all to particular treatments,” he says. “With this knowledge we can begin to tailor the type of chemotherapy or targeted agents that we can use for treating specific cancers.”

Dr. Lim says donor funding has played a pivotal role in advancing genomics research, which is also the focus of BC Cancer Foundation’s Discovery Luncheon on Nov. 5 in Kelowna.

“The basic science we do to help further all of this research is thanks to donor support – it makes a huge impact to all of us in the clinic,” says Dr. Lim. “In fact, a lot of the research and treatments we’ve moved forward with is because of BC Cancer Foundation donors.”

You can help transform the standard of cancer care with genomically informed treatments for British Columbians facing cancer. Learn more at www.bccancerfoundation.com.

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