The Avera Medical Group has always been a key ally in the war against cancer but they are now sending more troops to the front lines. The Avera Cancer Institute is now partnering with the Eppley Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. This collaboration is already revolutionizing the concept of personalized treatment.
Right now, breast cancer affects more than 10 percent of American women. While it may be the most common form of cancer, when it comes to genetics, the cancer itself can vary greatly.
"Although there are 3 to 5 main types of breast cancer within those types of breast cancer each patient's cancer is actually quite unique." Said Dr. Amy Krie, an oncologist with the Avera Medical Group Oncology and Hematology.
That's why Avera's collaboration with the Eppley Cancer Center is so important. The two hospitals have formed a registry to look at a patient's traditional risk factors for cancer, such as environment, health habits, and family history, but then goes a step further.
"We're doing what's called bio-banking so we're collecting blood from a patient as well as a sample of their actual tumor and from that were able to gain genetic information not only what genes did they inherit that may have contributed to their developing cancer but also what went wrong in the cancer what genetic changes led to them getting this cancer." Said Dr. Krie.
With these samples geneticists like Dr. Gareth Davies are able to treat breast cancer on the smallest of levels; by extracting a patient's DNA sequence. It's a process that used to take nearly decade but now it can be done in less than 24 hours right here in Sioux Falls.
"We look at the different sequences, the different letters on the sequence between the patient and the tumor and then we can look at why that DNA has changed? Why the sequences have changed? Why there's the mutation there? Why has this gene switched on and what caused the cells to grow quicker in this individual and this tumor rather than in another individual?" Said Dr. Davies, the scientific director at the Avera Institute of Human Genetics.
Looking at the problem this closely gives scientists a clearer picture at what genes put people at a higher risk of forming cancer, but it also gives doctors a hint at ways to beat the disease.
"Why it's important is because it allows us to customize someone's treatment and patient care based on their genetic background." Said Dr. Davies.
In the future it may not be what kind of cancer do you have, rather what gene do you have and what treatment is best based on your DNA. But just like geneticists need the collaboration with other cancer registries, Avera needs plenty of public input.
More than 200 women have already donated to the local Avera registry, which combined with Eppley now exceed 1000 samples. However, to continue the research donations are essential. It's just the start but this study could be the first step down the path to a cure.
"As a woman, I know one of the things we're concerned about is we want this to be different for our daughters. Having a daughter I full well know I want there to be a cure by the time my four-year-old is facing these things and I want there to be a cure my lifetime and patients want that too." Said Dr. Krie.
If you or someone you know would be interested in participating in the breast cancer registry, please contact Heidi Demuth at (605) 322-3295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can learn more about the Breast Cancer Collaborative Registry by clicking here.