Being a two-time cancer survivor I am always interested in the next big thing scientists are finding to help in the treatment for cancer. New York Times wrote a 3 part article about Dr. Lukas Wartman of Washington University, a doctor who specializes in leukemia who was diagnosed with leukemia.
After his diagnosis, his colleagues at the university’s genome institute decided to see if they could find the cancer gene that was causing the cancer instead of the cells or organs. Last fall his colleagues were successful in sequencing his cancer genome and what they found led to a treatment plan targeting his specific genetic makeup. This experimental treatment has so far been a success.
Dr. Ley’s team tried a type of analysis that they had never done before. They fully sequenced the genes of both his cancer cells and healthy cells for comparison, and at the same time analyzed his RNA, a close chemical cousin to DNA, for clues to what his genes were doing.
The researchers on the project put other work aside for weeks, running one of the university’s 26 sequencing machines and supercomputer around the clock. And they found a culprit — a normal gene that was in overdrive, churning out huge amounts of a protein that appeared to be spurring the cancer’s growth.
Even better, there was a promising new drug that might shut down the malfunctioning gene — a drug that had been tested and approved only for advanced kidney cancer. Dr. Wartman became the first person ever to take it for leukemia. And now, against all odds, his cancer is in remission and has been since last fall.
While no one can say that Dr. Wartman is cured, after facing certain death last fall, he is alive and doing well. Dr. Wartman is a pioneer in a new approach to stopping cancer. What is important, medical researchers say, is the genes that drive a cancer, not the tissue or organ — liver or brain, bone marrow, blood or colon — where the cancer originates.
Read the full article: “In Treatment for Leukemia, Glimpses of the Future.”
Part two in the series: “A New Treatment’s Tantalizing Promise Brings Heartbreaking Ups and Downs”
And part three: “A Game Changer in Revealing a Cancer’s Prognosis.”
One more thing. I found this great site (here) that actually tracks in real-time conversations about breast cancer on twitter.