It is common for cancers, once they are treated by standard therapies, to return in different forms. Teresa McKeown had breast cancer that returned eleven years later in the triple-negative disease. After the detection of the cancer, a tumor had started to grow making it hard to eat while filling her abdomen with fluids. She had weeks to live, but everything changed though clinical trials at Moores Cancer Center. The test revealed genetic abnormalities inside tumors and found a large number of them in McKeown’s tumor. Doctors suggested she take Opdivo, which was used to treat melanoma, and could be used to kill cells in McKeown. After two infusions of the drug, her tumor markers dropped significantly, and within eight weeks, McKeown was back to living a cancer-free life.
How Opdivo works in the body
Although the story of Teresa is miraculous, it shows the important of sequencing the genomes of tumors. This practice, known as comprehensive tumor profiling, allows researchers to see the mutant genetics in the DNA of tumors and is slowly becoming a major part of cancer treatment. Running the profile of tumors allows doctors to determine the correct drugs that are able to fight the genetic mutations, although it might not be the intended use (using melanoma drugs to treat breast cancers).
Every individual with cancer is different, so individuals suffering from the same cancers may have tumors with completely different profiles. The FDA also approved 31 target therapies that allow individuals to be treated for their various cancer forms.
Looking at tumors is not new. For example, oncologists have checked specific mutations in tumors (BRAF in melanoma, ROS1, ALKr, EGFR in lung cancer. However, the use of the complete sequencing of tumors allows for a more detailed approach for the tumors and the treatments. Although this process is beneficial, many cancer doctors are not on board because most individuals don’t benefit from it. The reality is that the profiling of tumors is beneficial when there are not other options for treatments.