June 26, 2013
Genomic research into lymphoid cancer offers new model for diagnosis and treatment
Vancouver, BC – Researchers at the BC Cancer Agency will receive $10 million investment to further their work in finding a cost-effective, genomic approach to treat lymphoid cancer patients. The substantial support from Genome British Columbia, the BC Cancer Foundation, Genome Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) will dramatically advance therapies for patients diagnosed with the disease: lymphoid cancers are the fourth most common cancer in BC.
“This funding allows BC to become a real world laboratory to show how we can use genomic analysis cost-effectively to treat more cancer patients in a way that can readily be duplicated elsewhere around the world,” says Dr. Joseph Connors, project leader and clinical director at the BC Cancer Agency’s Centre for Lymphoid Cancer. “It brings together a culmination of decades of meticulous record-keeping with cutting-edge technology to maximize our knowledge about lymphoid cancers.”
Dr. Connors adds that recent research has shown that genomic sequencing can recognize specific lymphoid cancers that are often untreatable with current technology. These cancers could be treated more effectively using personally designed treatments – and Dr. Connors and his team intend to provide this type of treatment in the near future.
Each patient’s cancer is distinct; therefore treating them with a one-size-all approach is not efficient or cost effective and can put patients through unnecessary treatments that will not be of benefit to them. Personalized cancer treatment means determining the specific genetic characteristics of a patient’s cancer and prescribing therapies that are customized for the unique molecular makeup of their cancer. Genomic sequencing is now able to accurately and quickly decode the entire genetic instructions in malignant and normal cells. This opens the possibility that doctors will be able to use this information to choose treatments that are specifically designed for that individual patient’s cancer.
The research project will study four specific lymphoid cancers of which there are more than 500 cases each year in our province. In more than half of these cases primary treatment fails, and associated costs of secondary treatment run over $60,000 and this amount is often exceeded in just the cost of anti-cancer drugs alone. Personalized medical care employing sophisticated genomic techniques may dramatically reduce this cost: in the last few decades a number of new drugs have come on the market to improve patient outcomes but a drastically new approach is now required in order to apply the genomic information now available. Core components of the project will include careful analysis of all the costs that result from personalized lymphoid cancer care and development of economic analytic tools that enable healthcare planners to assess the economic impact of applying similar techniques to treating other cancers and other diseases.
“Genome BC’s investment into this work is farsighted—analysis of this cancer will provide a revised lymphoma treatment model for our province and analytical tools that can be applied to other types of the disease,” says Dr. Alan Winter, President & CEO of Genome BC. “This funding closes a gap between novel research and real-time clinical application.”
“The BC Cancer Foundation is proud to support this initiative as the BC Cancer Agency’s Centre for Lymphoid Cancer is on a trajectory to establish a world-leading model of advanced care, which will truly benefit patients diagnosed with lymphoid cancer,” says Douglas Nelson, President & CEO, BC Cancer Foundation.
The research project Personalized treatment of Lymphoid Cancer: British Columbia as a Model Province is funded through Genome Canada’s 2012 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition.
Personalized cancer treatment means determining the specific genetic characteristics of a patient’s cancer to design unique treatment for that individual. Analysis employing genomic sequencing is now able to accurately decode the entire genetic instructions in malignant and normal cells at a reasonable cost, opening the possibility that doctors will be able to use this information to choose treatments that are specifically designed for that individual patient’s cancer.
Lymphoid cancers are, in aggregate, the 4th most common cancer. They are special because even when they have spread widely in the body they can still be successfully treated. Recently, BC researchers have shown that genomic sequencing can recognize specific lymphoid cancers that are often not cured today but which could be treated more effectively using personally designed treatments. This approach will not only cure more lymphoid cancers but it will also save health care dollars.
A reasonable estimate is that the cure rate for several common lymphoid cancers can be increased by at least 20% and, by improving diagnostic accuracy and keeping patients from relapsing, save the province of British Columbia more than $2.5 million each year.
To date, genomic personalization of lymphoid cancer treatment has only been applied in research settings, not day-to-day medical care.
The project team will demonstrate that genomics tools can be provided for lymphoid cancer patients all across British Columbia in a practical way that rapidly and cost-effectively enables local cancer specialists to use special genomic sequencing information to identify different, more effective treatments than would otherwise be offered. They will use BC as a real world laboratory to show how to use genomic analysis to cost-effectively cure more cancer patients in a way that can readily be duplicated elsewhere around the world.
Researchers will also design a whole provincial specimen acquisition and treatment guidance report consisting of personnel, standard operating procedures, specimen transportation and analysis procedures, report generation, report interpretation by an expert panel, communication procedures to provide treatment guidance for the primary oncologist and database recording to track the whole system.
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About the BC Cancer Foundation:
The BC Cancer Foundation is the bridge that connects philanthropic support and research breakthroughs in cancer knowledge. As the fundraising partner of the BC Cancer Agency and the largest charitable funder of cancer research in this province, we enable donors to make contributions to leading-edge research that has a direct impact on improvements to cancer care for patients in British Columbia. We fund with the goal of finding solutions. As an independent charitable organization, we raise funds exclusively for the BC Cancer Agency that support innovative cancer research and compassionate enhancements to patient care.