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Gene Test May Help Treat Rare Gastric Cancer

Doctors can use the screen to choose best chemotherapy, study shows

THURSDAY, Sept. 14, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A genetic test may help physicians decide how to treat a rare cancer, U.S. researchers report.

Since 2002, Gleevec (imatinib) has been the first-line treatment for people with gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), a rare type of cancer that, when advanced, is resistant to chemotherapy.

But not all patients respond well to Gleevec, and a new drug, Sutent (sunitinib), is sometimes beneficial in people who do not respond to or become resistant to Gleevec.

In a new study presented at the first meeting on the Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development in Chicago, researchers at Oregon Health and Science University examined gene mutations in tumor samples from 74 people with GIST.

They found that the same gene mutation that predicts a poor response to Gleevec predicts a beneficial response to Sutent. What's more, a separate gene mutation also predicts a better response to Sutent.

Based on the results of this study, a single genetic test could potentially help physicians decide when to switch patients from Gleevec to Sutent.

"This is a story about personalized medicine. Treatment isn't one-size-fits-all anymore. We can individualize therapy based on the types of mutations found in tumor cells," Michael Heinrich, lead researcher and professor of medicine at the university, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about gastrointestinal stromal tumors.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Sept. 14, 2006
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