As precision medicine gains attention and momentum in targeting certain types of cancer with novel therapies based on tumors’ genetic makeup, two Brigham and Women’s Hospital initiatives are helping to harness these treatment approaches for Partners HealthCare patients.
One, the Profile project, was launched in 2011 at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC). Through the project, all adult DF/BWCC patients can consent to have samples of their tumors analyzed for the presence of mutations and other DNA abnormalities. Profile has helped to build a database of more than 13,500 genetic mutations, with hundreds more added each month.
The data is in turn used to inform research at DF/BWCC that has helped advance treatment for previously untreatable cancers such as non-small cell lung cancer, found in some patients to have a mutated protein called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) that responds to a targeted therapy. “Today, patients with EGFT mutations who are treated with targeted drugs survive an average of two to three years, with some making it to five years or more,” notes Bruce Johnson, MD, chief clinical research officer at DFCI.
Separately, DFCI and BWH are part of a collaboration with Boston Children’s Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard aimed at speeding the development of personalized therapies. The Joint Center for Precision Cancer Medicine works to create precision medicine pathways that lead to the expansion of targeted therapies for a greater number of advanced cancers.
More on precision medicine initiatives here.