Vandy Takes New Approach To Battle Cancers 8-11-2010 - WSMV Channel 4

Vandy Takes New Approach To Battle Cancers 8-11-2010


Since June, doctors at Vanderbilt Medical Center have been taking a new approach to defeating both lung cancer and melanoma by personalizing the therapies of their patients.
Patient Roger Johnson is a husband, father of three and lifelong resident of Cottontown, Tenn. In June 2009, he was diagnosed with stage 4-C melanoma.
"I had a mass show up in my left arm and had to have a tumor removed out of my left arm. They found out it was internal. It was in my abdomen, and in a spot in my leg," said Johnson. "When I first started with this situation last June, they gave me six months to live."
But today that prognosis has changed. Johnson is a part of the personalized cancer medicine initiative at Vanderbilt’s Ingram Cancer Center.
"Recent research has shown the genetic level of tumors has all kinds of genetic alterations that make them grow and then turn into cancer, but it can be different from cancer to cancer. So, what we're doing is profiling tumors to look at the genetic makeup to prioritize therapy of these tumors," said Dr. William Pao. "For example, if you give a certain drug to 100 patients, then only 10 patients may have their tumors shrink. But if we can identify patients beforehand with this kind of test, then we only give it to the 10 patients that benefit the most."
Pao said the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center is the first in the southeast to offer this service.
"We think this is going to have a big impact on how our patients are treated by minimizing the side effect of therapies patients may not need," said Pao.
It's an experience Johnson said has allowed him to resume his life. His personalized treatment is a pill he calls a miracle drug.
"It's probably 85 to 90 percent gone. Vanderbilt has been a real blessing to me. Without them, I wouldn't be talking to you now," said Johnson.
The center is currently focusing on treating melanoma and lung cancer, but Pao said he will soon be looking into a test for colon cancer.
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