Test on chemo drugs predict side effects

August 04, 2015

A test hopes to identify chemotherapy drugs causing unwanted side effects for sarcoma cancer patients.

A chemosensitivity test hopes to identify which chemo drugs will provide benefit and which may cause unwanted side effects for sarcoma cancer patients.

University of Western Australia’s School of Surgery researchers are currently comparing three methods to identify the most effective and reliable method to grow a patient’s tumour cells.

Co-lead researcher Dr Nicholas Calvert says sarcoma is a group of rare cancers arising from bone, muscle and cartilage.

“While they are rare, they can be very aggressive and early detection is vital to successful treatment, which can involve chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgical treatment,” he says.

Calvert says it is difficult to predict tumour responsiveness to chemotherapy because there are over 70 different types of sarcoma with significant variation in the genetic profile of cells within each type.

Chemotherapy in this area is generally guided by research on chemotherapy efficacy on a specific tumour type or those that are similar.

“So successfully predicting whether a patient’s tumour will be similar to another patient’s tumour of the same type is very difficult,” says Calvert.

“Especially given there are only around 1200 new cases per year which does not provide a large enough trial to test different chemotherapy regimens.”

Gene library and cell cultures methods considered

One of the methods under review involves researchers analysing DNA from tumour cells and comparing them to an international library of genes to identify whether they have any mutations that will help or prevent a chemotherapy drug from working.

Another method involves growing tumour cells in the lab and then exposing them to different chemotherapy drugs to see which kill the cells and at what dose.

Finally, mouse xenograft will be considered where tumour cells are grown in lab mice which are then subjected to different chemotherapy drugs to see which kill the cells and at what dose.

Calvert says once this pilot study is completed they will expand it to a national trial to identify which of these tests is effective and reliable to select chemotherapy drugs.

“If we can identify a test that will allow us to take a sample of tumour, and identify how it will respond to chemotherapy it will have significant benefit for not only those with sarcoma but also other cancers,” says Calvert.

He says this ‘personalised medicine’ approach aims to confirm a tumour will respond to an agent before it is even given, and avoid the significant and sometimes life-threatening side effects of some the chemotherapy agents.

Sarcoma has approximately 1200 new cases diagnosed each year in Australia and accounts for approximately 1% of all adult malignancies and 15% of paediatric malignancies.

– Teresa Belcher

This article was originally published on Science Network Western Australia. Read the original article here.


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