Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs: Chemotherapy Prediction

Medical Breakthroughs
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When a person is diagnosed with cancer, the first step is usually standard chemotherapy. However, many of these patients will not respond to the first treatment.

Researchers say studying multiple genes at the same time could be what doctors need to determine which treatment will work best for each patient.

Not today, but soon Ken Burlingame hopes to get back on the golf course.

"We have 27 holes here, and I haven't played only but four times," Ken said.

In 1989, Ken was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He's tried countless treatments -- "everything in the known books that they can throw at you," according to him.

His latest treatment seems to be working. If only he could have had this one first.

Caio Max Rocha Lima, M.D., says the key to treatment success is in the genes of the tumor.

"Until recently we were treating patients based on what we see in the microscope. Now we are going to be able to see and treat patients based on what we see in their genes," says Dr. Rocha Lima, an oncologist and hematologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla.

Researchers study this pattern of 12,000 genes in a tumor. A database shows, which patterns respond to which treatments, allowing doctors to recommend the best treatment for each patient.

With this treatment, according to Dr. Rocha Lima, they will have a higher chance that the treatment we are going to offer them will be right for them.

It's an advancement that Ken's wife, Freda, believes could have helped him.

"If we know what we're dealing with it's much easier than just well let's try this chemo and see what happens. Well, that didn't work; let's try the next kind of chemo. And that's what he's been on for the past 13 years," Freda said.

For Ken, his life is like his golf game -- a struggle that's worth continuing.

This advancement is possible thanks to microarray technology. It allows researchers to study multiple genes at the same time. Right now, the database of gene patterns is being compiled at Moffitt Cancer Center.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Andrea Brunais, Media Relations
Moffitt Cancer Center
MBC-PR 10441 University Center Dr.
Tampa, FL 33612
(813) 632-1478