PHILADELPHIA - An ambitious and innovative cancer trial underway in our area is being expanded. It's testing a host of drugs, to see if they work for cancers they aren't yet approved for.
It includes some unexpected partners and a new approach to testing cancer drugs.
Cancer was always defined by it's location - lungs, breast, brain...
But in recent years, doctors have begun defining it by the cells themselves, or the genetic mutations in them.
Last year, ASCO, the Society of Clinical Oncologists, launched its first-ever trial, called TAPUR.
It's based on medical matchmaking, putting advanced tumors of almost any type through genomic tests and documenting their genetic signatures.
Those mutations are then compared to the properties of 17 different drugs to see if they'll work for cancers they aren't yet approved for.
"If you have lung cancer, but you have a mutation more commonly found in colon cancer or breast cancer, you might be eligible for the trial, for that particular reason," said Dr. Pamela Crilley.
Dr. Crilley of Cancer Treatment Centers of Aamerica, the first Philadelphia center involved in TAPUR, says a patient's response is being evaluated at about 16 weeks.
"If one alteration or targeted agent doesn't work, you may be able to move on to another," said Dr. Crilley.
And instead of competing, the drug makers are collaborating - providing them free to patients.
Dr. Crilley says it's like having dozens of trials in one place. She believes oncologists will learn a lot in a very short time and that TAPUR will lead to more clinical trials.
Bob Russo beat kidney cancer 6 years ago. But if that or another cancer develops down the road, he's happy to know trials like TAPUR are an option.
"I'm sure that I would find it to be something I'd be interested in looking into," he said.
Thirty-six locations were added to the trial this summer.
In addition to Cancer Treatment Centers, Fox Chase and Lehigh Valley are now taking part.
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