Mercy Offers a Nationwide Cancer Trial

Could chemotherapy become a thing of the past?

authors Christine Imbs

Most cancer treatments focus on where the cancer is located in the body, but a new National Cancer Institute (NCI) trial is looking at the disease in a completely different way – by what specific gene abnormality may have caused the cancer in the first place, regardless of what organ it’s affecting.

The Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice (MATCH) precision medicine trial is now available to patients at Mercy Hospital St. Louis along with hospitals in Springfield, Bolivar, Branson and Joplin across several hospital systems as part of the Cancer Research of the Ozarks’ participation in ongoing NCI studies.

“It’s cutting edge,” said Jay Carlson, DO, director of women’s oncology at Mercy Springfield and the principle investigator for Cancer Research of the Ozarks. “It’s the next generation of cancer treatment and being able to offer it to our patients is exciting.”

The trial is for patients who have either exhausted conventional treatments, or who have a rare or particularly aggressive form of cancer. “It offers them new hope because now there is another option to consider,” said Carlson.

Currently, the two most common treatments for cancer are chemotherapy and radiation. Both work by destroying fast-growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, they also damage fast-growing healthy cells as well. In this trial, they are looking at somatic mutations and gene abnormalities within the cancerous tumor and then matching them with certain drugs coming through NCI. Right now the trial is studying 10 drugs and 12 more are on the way.

“Patients have never seen these drugs before,” Carlson said. “In many cases, they’re in tablet form so patients won’t have to wait through long infusions in a clinic. They can medicate themselves at home.”

And they won’t have to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation such as hair loss, nausea, vomiting and blood count issues. Of course that’s not to say there won’t be any side effects. Diarrhea and rashes may occur as well as some other reactions. Since the drugs aren’t FDA approved, the jury’s still out on this subject. But Carlson is optimistic.

“We’re damaging all kinds of normal cells in addition to the cancer cells with chemotherapy and radiation. So the idea that we would be able to have a smart drug, like a smart bomb, be able to hit a mutation with laser accuracy is very cool,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for our patients. Hopefully this is the first step toward much more therapeutic treatments than just standard chemotherapy.”

Potential candidates for the trial must be 18 years of age or older with either an extremely advanced malignancy where they have limited options, or who have exhausted their options. And, according to Bethany Sleckman, MD, Mercy Clinic medical oncologist and director of oncology research at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, they must also have a new biopsy taken so the tumor cells can undergo genetic testing to determine whether or not they contain one of the gene mutations being studied.

“We can’t just rely on previous biopsies because as cancer grows and spreads, it can develop new mutations,” she explained. “We want a clear picture of what the mutations are in the cancer at the point that we’re going to enroll them in the trial.”

Sleckman also said they are screening for over 100 different genetic mutations in the tumor. “We’re looking for all mutations in any kind of cancer because more and more we’re finding that cancers can have different mutations not necessarily correlated to the original site of the disease.”

The National Cancer Institute’s goal is to enroll 3,000 patients in the initial biopsy phase of the trial. Originally they expected to enroll 500 the first year nationwide, but by the second month of the trial that number was already reached.

“Clearly, this trial is very popular with both physicians and their patients,” said Sleckman. “And it’s really nice, especially here at a community hospital, to be able to participate in studies sponsored by the NCI. It keeps our physicians on the cutting edge of therapy and offers that cutting edge therapy to our patients closer to home.”

Of course to be part of the trial, a patient has to quality. And that’s the downside. To find those 3,000 patients who actually receive one of the drugs, they may have to go through 20,000 hopeful applicants. As Carlson said, if enrolled in this program, they could “potentially find a homerun solution for them.” If not, it’s devastating.”

“It’s a lot to think about,” he said. “They have this hope dangled in front of them and then it’s yanked away when the results show there is a mutation, but just not one in the first 22 drugs we’re doing. That’s why it’s important to talk with your oncologist to be sure you are a potential candidate.”


More in Research

Research  Jan 19

NIH Genome Sequencing Program Targets the Genomic Bases of Common, Rare Disease

The National Institutes of Health will fund a set of genome sequencing and analysis centers whose research will focus on understanding…

Research  Jan 19

Jama Neurology Releases Highly Promising Data From ALS Clinical Trial Conducted By Hadassah Medical Organization Jerusalem And Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics

NEW YORK ­– A new ALS treatment utilizing a stem cell infusion protocol performed at Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) and…

Research  Jan 15

Social Media May Provide Key Health Information

Could your Facebook posts be the clue to your health?

Research  Jan 06

Findings on Fat Cell Metabolism

A new study shows simple sugars are not the only favored nutrient of fat cells.

Clinical  Jan 06

A Clearer Picture: Imaging Rhodopsin Could Shed Light on Retinal Disorders

A new retinal imaging technology holds the promise of improved diagnostics, assessment of vision loss, and effectiveness of therapy.

Research  Jan 01

Special Report on the Future of Cancer Prevention Research Published in American Association for Cancer Research Journal

PHILADELPHIA — A special report that sets out a brief agenda for the immediate future of cancer prevention research was published…

Research  Dec 15

Five Factors Identify Subset of Patients With Advanced Cervical Cancer Who May Not Benefit From Bevacizumab Treatment

New study prospectively validated the five prognostic factors called the Moore criteria.

Clinical  Dec 11

Statin Therapy Benefits Patients with Highest Genetic Risk of Heart Attack

Which patients benefit the most from statins?

Clinical  Nov 01

Nanotechnology Meeting its Potential

NCSU engineer develops joint replacements containing nanotechnology to combat post-surgical infections.

Research  Oct 06 Launches Metastatic Trial Search

Non-profit clinical trial matching service partners with leading breast cancer advocacy groups to make details about metastatic…

Feature Profiles  Oct 01

Half-match Stem-cell Transplant Program Leads to Lifesaving Option

As director of the Haploidentical Transplant Program at Washington University School of Medicine, Rizwan Romee, MD, is pioneering new…

Research  Sep 14

Using Deep Brain Stimulation to Treat OCD Patients

Does Deep Brain Stimulation Provide Cure for OCD?

Research  Sep 11

PanCAN, AACR Call for 2016 Research Grant Applications

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and American Association for Cancer Research invite early career investigators to submit 2016 research grant applications by noon (ET) on Oct. 8 (Career Development Awards) or Oct. 27 Pathway to Leadership Grant).

Clinical  Sep 02

No Relief for Allergy Sufferers

Allergy cases are on the rise everywhere.

Home  Sep 02

Saint Louis University Hospital Makes Recovery Easier with Catheter-Less Prostatectomy

Who in St. Louis is offering catheter-less prostatectomy?

Research  Aug 31

New Down Syndrome Discovery

Researchers target chromosome disorders with natural chromosome therapy

Research  Aug 14

AHA Scientific Statement: Mobile Technology May Help People Improve Health Behaviors

Preliminary data suggest that smart phone apps and wearable sensors are promising for improving cardiovascular health behaviors.

Business  Aug 12

Siteman Receives Highest Possible NCI Rating

Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish and Wash U Stands with Nation’s Elite

Research  Jul 24

Landmark Global Study Provides New Evidence of Lymph Node Radiation Benefit in Long-Term Breast Cancer Control

An Australian/North American clinical trial has shown significant improvement in cancer-free survival among women who underwent lymph node radiation when their breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes.

Research  Jul 16

Small, New Study Shows More than Half of Breast Cancer Patients Develop Diastolic Dysfunction After Anthracycline-Based Chemotherapy

Patients who undergo treatment with anthracycline-based chemotherapy for breast cancer are at risk of developing diastolic dysfunction, according to a new study published in The Oncologist on July 16, 2015. Within 12 months of completing anthracycline…

Research  Jul 15

New CDC Study Highlights Pneumonia Hospitalizations Among U.S. Adults

Viruses, not bacteria, are the most commonly detected respiratory pathogens in U.S. adults hospitalized with pneumonia, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study released in mid-July and conducted by researchers at Centers for Disease Control…

  Load more content