Personalized treatments may stop cancer growth

June 15, 2011 4:42:29 AM PDT
This year 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with some kind of cancer.

Treatment often includes chemotherapy or radiation, but in cancers where not all of the tumor can be removed, one big challenge is making sure the cancer doesn't start growing again.

Now there's an experimental approach -- personalized treatment.

When it comes to making things grow, Andrea Suhor has plenty of patience. But with her health? Not so much. She's fighting a rare neuro-endocrine cancer that hasn't responded to traditional therapy.

"I'm ready to move forward. This is my life, and I feel like it's on hold right now until we can get started and get it under control. I'm a fighter."

After surgery to eliminate as much of her tumor as possible, Suhor is ready to begin an experimental treatment pioneered by LSU surgeon Dr. Eugene Woltering. The treatment targets her cancer by stopping new blood vessels that support tumor growth.

"If we can prevent that from happening, the tumor stays exactly the same size as it is today forever and ever," Woltering said.

Tiny pieces of Suhor's tumor were tested with dozens of anti-angiogenics -- drugs that stop growth of new blood vessels.

"All these that are real long lines, the drug didn't have any effect," Suhor said.

This graph tells them what didn't work and what did, even if it's not a drug.

"What else we have is a black raspberry syrup," Woltering said. This experimental syrup made from black raspberry powder suppressed blood vessel growth in up to 60 percent of patients. And that's the goal: stop tumor growth long-term -- without toxic side-effects -- by blocking the growth of new blood vessels.

"We can control the growth of cancer, keep the patient with a high quality of life and a long quantity of life."

Controlling cancer, so patients like Suhor can have a long, healthy life and plenty of time to stop and smell the roses.

LSU is one of several medical centers exploring this new approach to cancer. It's still investigational and is not considered to be appropriate for all types of cancer or all cancer patients. But it could mean some cancers could be treated more like a chronic disease -- something like diabetes -- where treatment involves a long-term plan of control and prevention.

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