Avera Medical Minute AMcK: genomic sequencing for help in treating cancer

By  | 

Cancer doesn't play favorites and can attack anyone at any age. Genetics play a big role in developing cancer, but they also play a role in helping treat it. Doctors at Avera are now able to target your treatment specifically to your cancer through genomic sequencing.

It's been almost two years since Amie Kidd began her battle with colon cancer

"We did some blood work and it came back that some levels were low and did some further testing did a colonoscopy and found a tumor in my colon." said Kidd.

Amie was only 33. She quickly had surgery to remove the tumor followed by six months of chemotherapy. Before she finished treatments doctors also found the cancer in Amie's liver.

"So then we did another surgery and took it out of the liver and then did some more chemotherapy to help that and it just kept spreading in my liver." said Kidd.

That's when Amie decided to turn to Dr. Brian Leyland-Jones and do genomic testing on her cancer.

"Cancer is a disease of alteration of genes. Food and stress they may add small components, but basically cancer is altered DNA in your body." said Dr. Leyland-Jones, Vice President of Molecular and Experimental Medicine at the Avera Cancer Institute.

Your body is run by over 20,000 genes; 400 of those can become altered and cause cancer. By sequencing the DNA of the tumor, doctors can find those altered genes and focus treatments much more effectively.

"If you think of the old chemotherapy it's just like the atomic bomb that was let off and just destroys everything. If you look at the way we now are targeting these genes, it's like these drone attacks. You are looking at particular genes that are driving the tumor and you hit them with targeted therapy." said Dr. Leyland-Jones.

In Amie's case, the tumor genetically was acting like a melanoma or a skin cancer. Doctors now had the information to form a powerful gameplan for her cancer.

"Going through it for so long that whole first year of kind of bad news every time you scan, it seemed like it was getting worse or kept spreading, and then all of a sudden this comes about and then it's working within six weeks." said Kidd.

In six weeks, Amie's tumor had shrunk by 70 percent.

"Amie had about six driving alterations in her tumor. There were two of them that were dominant so we actually gave her two drugs to hit these drivers and get her into routine chemotherapy and then as you know her disease has gone totally into remission... it's a new world!" said Dr. Leyland-Jones

Amie is just one example of how genomic cancer sequencing is changing medicine. At Avera, this is the new standard. Patients will get their tumor sequenced right from the get-go. Giving them the greatest chance of killing the cancer and reclaiming their lives.

"It's unbelievable I am very thankful that I can tell this story and other people can hear it and maybe ask their doctors about possibly doing this." said Kidd.

Amie's children tested negative for the genes that triggered her cancer but they will start routine colonoscopies at age 23, ten years earlier than Amie's diagnosis. For more information about genomic sequencing just call 877-AT-AVERA.