June 2, 2015 | by Nicole Levine
Precision medicine is becoming a reality for cancers with genetic mutations that are practically household names, such as those behind some breast cancers and lung cancers.
For patients with very rare cancers, the options are fewer.
A new National Cancer Institute clinical trial, called NCI-MATCH: Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice, aims to help such patients. The nationwide effort, announced Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, will provide a way for patients who have cancers with known mutations in unusual sites to access new therapies in clinical trials.
For example, BRAF gene mutations are commonly associated with melanoma, but they can also be linked to other cancers. The NCI-MATCH trial will allow a patient with a BRAF mutation in a different kind of tumor to have access to a clinical trial.
“It’s tissue agnostic,” said Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope. Reckamp will serve as a principal investigator for one of the arms of the multicenter trial. “This will open up the availability of targeted therapies to patients with very rare cancers.”
Because these cancers are so unusual, a single center would have difficulty enrolling enough patients to launch a study. By having a number of protocols already designed and approved for certain drugs, organized by the genetics of the tumor rather than the tumor site, the nationwide NCI-MATCH trial will allow patients from medical centers across the country to participate in the trial. When a patient meets the criteria of one of the MATCH protocols, he or she can be enrolled in the study, receiving testing and therapies that might otherwise not be available.
“NCI-MATCH is a unique, groundbreaking trial,” said Doug Lowy, M.D., NCI acting director in the announcement of the trial. "It is the first study in oncology that incorporates all of the tenets of precision medicine. There are no other cancer clinical trials of this size and scope that truly bring the promise of targeted treatment to patients whose cancers have specific genetic abnormalities. It holds the potential to transform cancer care.”
The approach is a step forward in precision medicine, one that puts the genetics and mutation of the tumor first, and the tumor site second.
Learn more about City of Hope Clinical Trials On-Line.
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