Tailor-made to fight cancer

TARGETED TREATMENT: The Champions TumorGraft process involves transplanting small fragments of a tumour into immune-deficient mice. This then determines the drugs that are most effective against that particular tumour.


    Mar 18, 2014

    Tailor-made to fight cancer

    CANCER patients can now increase their chances in their battle against the disease, with the introduction of a new procedure that is able to identify potential and customised treatments.

    Called Champions TumorGraft, the procedure was officially launched last month at Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC), the first cancer treatment centre in Asia to do so.

    "The battle against cancer is not an easy one," said Dr Ang Peng Tiam, medical director and senior consultant of medical oncology at PCC.

    "The silver lining of this reality is that constant advancements in medicines and medical technology are slowly, but surely, tipping the battle against cancer in our favour."

    The Champions TumorGraft process, which takes an average of six months, involves taking a small biopsy of the tumour and transplanting small fragments of it into immune-deficient mice.

    This is followed by testing a variety of drugs on the mice, which will then determine the drugs that are most effective in treating that particular tumour.

    The live samples will be preserved for future use, in the event of cancer progression or recurrence in patients.

    "Every tumour is different and unique to each patient," noted Dr Ang, adding that the breakthrough procedure improves accuracy in selecting effective treatments.

    Compared with the traditional method of using xenograft, Champions TumorGraft is able to achieve a genetic correlation with the original tumour that is almost five times as accurate, he explained. This translates to a "better predictive tool for clinical studies and testing".

    He said: "By personalising treatments to fit how each tumour reacts, there is a higher possibility of better patient outcomes."

    Since it was first introduced here in December, tumour grafting has been carried out successfully on 33 patients, said Dr Khoo Kei Siong, PCC's deputy medical director and senior consultant of medical oncology.

    But it is important to note that not all patients are suitable for the procedure, said Dr Ang. This is especially so for those in the last few stages of the disease, who are also fighting a battle against time.

    He pointed out that some tumour fragments may not grow when implanted into first-generation mice, which means they then have to be grown in several different groups of mice. The speed at which the fragments grow can "vary significantly".

    "So, it often takes months from implanting the initial human tumour in the first generation of mice to obtaining a definitive answer from the final drug studies," said Dr Ang.

    All the same, the new procedure's merit lies in its capacity to help patients achieve the "best possible outcome". "This offers patients hope - that they will have a better chance at fighting the disease," said Dr Ang.