November 20, 2017
When Joe Biegel was told he had advanced cancer, he was shocked. At 57, the Vancouver father of two was active and a non-smoker. After returning to his doctor when a persistent chest cold got worse, Joe had an X-ray that confirmed the diagnosis. “My world changed,” he says.
Surgery wasn’t an option. But tissue biopsies revealed cell mutations susceptible to specific drugs and that set him on a more personalized chemotherapy treatment path. His BC Cancer oncologist, Dr. Janessa Laskin, also enrolled him in the Personalized Onco-Genomics (POG) program. It identified an RNA defect, which may have played a role in how he developed lung cancer, and showed a high probability that his cancer would respond very well to a specific late-stage chemotherapy drug.
“Joe’s situation is a perfect example of why we need projects like POG to take us to the next level of innovation and discovery in cancer care, to uncover new treatment options with the best technology in the world,” says Dr. Laskin, Senior Scientist and Medical Oncologist, BC Cancer. “The POG program is doing that right here in BC.”
Genome British Columbia (Genome BC) has committed $2 million to the BC Cancer Foundation for the POG program. This translational research initiative will generate genomic information in conjunction with real-time treatment planning for patients with metastatic cancers. Including whole genome analysis in clinical decision-making allows for the rational, data driven development of strategies to treat severe and metastatic cancers, and identify clinical trials that patients may benefit from. This will potentially lead to more effective and personalize therapeutic options that are rooted in the latest knowledge and technology.
Joe says POG results offered options and optimism for the future. For now, he continues to focus on the present. Today, almost two years after his diagnosis, having also done some standard treatment, Joe takes one pill a day that is so far managing the cancer well.
The investment made by Genome BC towards POG will help sustain the program and focus on addressing issues that have emerged as the program has matured. These include incorporation of proteomic data and related bioinformatics into POG to enhance results from the whole genome analysis. Health economics research and assessments will also be conducted, enabling more successful implementation of POG research outcomes into clinical care.
“POG is a revolutionary approach to cancer treatment and it should become the standard of care in our province,” says Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors, at Genome BC. “Genomic technology is evolving rapidly, and POG is optimizing cutting-edge science to move it into clinical care quickly and effectively.”
“BC Cancer Foundation’s partnership with Genome BC is an important investment in one of the world’s leading cancer trials,” says Sarah Roth, BC Cancer Foundation President and CEO. “Together our two organizations propel cutting-edge cancer research programs to the next stage.”
This investment is valued at $2 million and was funded through Genome BC’s Strategic Initiatives program. Find information on Genome BC’s funding programs here.