When Genetics & Precision Medicine Meet


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ivanhoe Newswire) – A new era of medical treatment is just beginning and it will soon revolutionize how doctors treat many health conditions and diseases. It does away with the “one-size-fits-all” approach to treating diseases like cancer. Instead, it looks at a patient’s genetic makeup and tailors the most effective treatment for them based, in part, on their DNA. Precision medicine

Health and fitness have always been a big part of David Perry’s life. You’d never guess this 58-year-old grandfather has been living with a brain tumor for five years.

Perry says, “The first thought when you hear you have a brain tumor is, ‘Okay, what about the future? Am I going to be confined to a hospital bed and go through the yucky stuff of chemotherapy and radiation?’”

So far, Perry has managed to avoid chemo and radiation. That’s because he happens to have a genetic profile that qualifies him for an experimental new drug, one that uses precision medicine.

“I like to think of precision medicine as, really, this idea of tailoring the medication or the treatment to the patient’s tumor,” says Neuro-oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Joe Mendez, MD.

(Read Full Interview)

Chemotherapy works by killing all the cells around the cancer, even the non-cancerous ones, which comes with severe side-effects. But precision medicine is able to target just the cancer leaving healthy cells alone.

“It’s a very unique way of attacking cancer. Something we haven’t done for a long time,” Dr. Mendez mentions.

And the drug is working. There has been zero growth in Perry’s brain tumor for the year and a half he’s been on the drug. He says the only side effects he’s seeing are those that come with getting older.

Perry expresses, “I don’t have to be sick, I can work as much as I want, go to the gym as much as I want. I can enjoy my wife, my kids, my grandchildren and live a normal life full of hope.”

For now, the drug Perry was given is still in the trial phase and there’s no estimate on when it might receive FDA-approval. But Dr. Mendez says the concept of “precision medicine” will continue to evolve as doctors create better treatment plans for cancer patients.

Contributors to this news report include: Jessica Sanchez, Producer; Kirk Manson,  Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:        MB #5295

BACKGROUND: Chemotherapy is a powerful treatment that kills cancerous cells in the body. According to Mesothelioma.com, about 25 percent of all cancer patients are put on chemotherapy every year. Chemo can be given in pill form, through an IV, or a targeted treatment called heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy. Breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, prostate cancer, and mesothelioma are the top four cancers that receive the most chemotherapy. When considering chemotherapy, there are factors to keep in mind: the type of cancer, the stage of that cancer, your age and health, body weight, possible side effects, other medications you’re on, and any previous cancer treatments.

(Sources: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/chemotherapy/about/pac-20385033#:~:text=Overview,different%20chemotherapy%20drugs%20are%20available.



DIAGNOSING: Chemotherapy is used for many reasons, including: to cure cancer without other treatments, to kill hidden cancer cells after other treatment, to prepare your body for other treatments, and/or to ease symptoms of your cancer. Although chemotherapy is used to help your body get rid of bad cells, it does come with some risks, including: nausea, hair loss, fatigue, mouth sores, constipation, easing bruising, and/or bleeding. Long lasting effects can include infertility, kidney problems, or heart problems. According to the American Cancer Society, “cancer cells tend to grow fast, and chemo drugs kill fast-growing cells. But because these drugs travel throughout the body, they can affect normal, healthy cells that are fast-growing, too.” The healthy cells that can be damaged due to chemo are blood-forming cells in the bone marrow, hair follicles, and cells in the mouth, digestive tract, and reproductive system.

(Sources: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/chemotherapy/about/pac-20385033#:~:text=Overview,different%20chemotherapy%20drugs%20are%20available.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Precision medicine is now, a new way to treat medical conditions, like cancer, using genetics. The new treatment is similar to heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy, where it targets the cancerous cells directly, and leaves the healthy cells alone. Neuro-oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Joe Mendez, MD, says that specific precision medicine treatments are still in their trial phases, but he hopes they will get approved soon. Dr. Mendez adds, “In general, the drug is incredibly well-tolerated, so, that’s the other real benefit to the clinical trial – the positive results meaning it helps patients. But furthermore, it’s a therapy that’s tolerable.” “The goal is to understand what are the potentials for these drugs, which tumor types, and trying to get as much benefit as we can from these types of therapies.”

(Sources: Joe Mendez, MD, Neuro-oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute)


Avery Shrader


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Joe Mendez, MD, Neuro-oncologist

Read the entire Q&A