Metastatic colorectal cancer is the most serious form of colorectal cancer, which has spread to other organs in the body, including the liver. The death rate from this type of disease is extremely high and is often due to liver failure or other complications.
Now, researchers at George Mason University are offering new hope of a more effective treatment for the seriously ill. They are developing a medicine system that is personalized to the patient’s own tissues.
Doctors at the University are studying indicators of disease in tissue and bodily fluids, known as biomarkers, which point towards a person developing cancer, heart disease or other conditions. By looking at biomarkers, they can also tailor a patient’s medication to their exact disease.
Kirstin Edmiston, Medical Director of cancer services at Inova Health System, is heading the first trial of personalized medicine for colorectal cancer sufferers. She said, “Traditionally, all colon cancers have been lumped together and given similar treatments. The novelty about this is that we can, in a very minimally invasive way, start to treat the metastatic tumor based on its unique protein makeup. If we’re going to be successful in treating the metastatic disease, which is what kills people, then we need to focus on using therapies targeted towards the individuality of a patient’s disease state. This clinical trial is the first step toward doing that.”
The trial, over a period of three years, will involve 50 men and women who have metastatic colorectal cancer. They will be given traditional treatments for colon cancer, in addition to a drug called Gleevec which can target disease pathways in tumor cells that are found in usually fatal liver metastasis.
Because the primary tumors in the colon are removed in most colorectal cancer patients as soon as they are diagnosed, this study will focus on treating the often fatal secondary tumors or metastatic lesions that appear when the disease spreads to the liver, causing death through destruction of that organ.