Personalized cancer treatment: It’s in your DNA

Published: Jan. 22, 2016 at 2:08 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 23, 2016 at 2:41 AM EST
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PHILADELPHIA (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- When someone goes through chemo and radiation to fight cancer the most devastating news is that the cancer has come back. Thanks to groundbreaking treatments tailored to each individual patient's genetic makeup, some may have new hope.

Joseph and Barbara Italiano have always loved taking walks.  When Joseph's salivary gland cancer came back a second time, everything changed.

Joseph told Ivanhoe, "I've got to admit for the first day or so I was saying to myself I'm not going to do anything. It's just a waste of time."

For Joseph, the key to successful treatment may lie in personalized diagnostics.

Marcia Brose, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Rare Cancers and Personalized Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania says, "For patients it's exciting because if they have finished the standard therapies and there are no other possibilities for them they can have their tumor tested."

Joseph did and found out that his tumor had a mutation that made him a candidate for what's called a "targeted therapy."

Dr. Brose says, "It really is the possibility of one, really personalizing it to the patient's tumor and two, giving them a therapy they wouldn't otherwise have- and that's hope."

Joseph says, "Ok, we have a possibility here. I'm not going to say that this is a guarantee that it's taken care of, but it's longevity. The longer I can stick around the better I think all of us feel."

And now the Italianos are confident they will enjoy many more walks together.

Since launching in 2013, Penn's Center for Personalized Diagnostics has performed more than 4,000 tests on patients with a wide range of cancers. Penn's center is one of just a handful of such programs in the United States focusing on DNA sequencing to individualize treatment. Doctors say that Joe's last scan shows his cancer has stabilized, which indicates that the treatment is working at this point.

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