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Basket Studies: OHC Leading the Shift in How We Study and Treat Cancer

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March 11, 2015


Not all cancers are the same. This fact has been known for years. But recently, that notion has taken on a new meaning.

Cancer research has historically classified cancers by the anatomic site, or where it occurred in the body. The belief was that patients with lung cancer, for example, were all dealing with the same form of the disease and should be treated similarly. But that idea is being reconsidered.

Ward Patrick J MD PhD - PHOTO

Patrick J. Ward, MD, PhD, OHC medical oncologist and primary investigator

Cancer Research Focuses It’s Approach

As cancer research moved to the genetic level, scientists discovered that it was mutations to the genetic code within cancer cells that caused them to function abnormally, growing rapidly and out of control.

Now, researchers have actually been able to identify those mutations present in cancer cells. In fact, over 400 different abnormalities have been identified and more are being discovered all the time.

The ability to identify these mutations led to a key discovery. Patients who have different forms of cancer, lung versus breast for example, can have the same genetic mutation in their cancer cells. “This has led to a shift in the way cancer is being considered,” explains OHC physician Dr. Patrick Ward.

Rather than view the anatomic site of the cancer as the way to treat the disease, researchers have now begun to view the various categories of mutation as the key to fighting cancer. That means, instead of crafting the same treatment for all lung cancer patients, now treatments will be developed based on a particular mutation. This is a relatively new concept and because of that, new research and treatment methods are being developed.

What Are Basket Studies?

One of these is a new form of clinical trial called a Basket Study. The typical clinical trial studies the effectiveness of a certain cancer drug on one type of the disease; for example, lung cancer.

Dr. David Waterhouse, Head of OHC Clinical Research Department

David M. Waterhouse, MD, MPH, Head of the OHC Clinical Research Department

A basket study, though, brings together patients who have cancer in different parts of their bodies, but who all share the same mutation. In this type of study, you might find a patient who has lung cancer, another with breast cancer, and perhaps a third with colorectal cancer. What these patients share, though, is the same genetic mutation.

The aim of a basket study, then, is to see how a drug, developed to treat that particular mutation, works with patients who have different forms of cancer. The treatment is individualized to the patient’s mutation. “That’s why personalized care is so important,” adds Dr. Ward.

A recent article in the New York Times shed some light on basket studies:

“This is a leading edge of precision medicine that aims to target the drug to the patient,” writes the article’s author, Gina Kolata. “Unlike previous efforts that looked for small differences between a new treatment and an older one, with basket studies, researchers are gambling on finding huge effects.”

Right now, OHC is the only practice in a 150-mile-radius around Cincinnati conducting basket studies. We have been doing so for nearly a year.

While this new approach seems promising, there are still many challenges to overcome. One involves clonal evolution, where one type of mutation changes into another. This can happen inside of the same tumor, or if the cancer spreads to another site.

Some patients might have more than one mutation type at the same time, resulting in a completely different challenge. How to treat this condition has not been worked out yet.

Most researchers agree, though, that the key to treating cancer in the future lies within the cancer cells at the genetic level. OHC is proud to be at the forefront of this revolution, bringing new, effective therapies to our patients. It’s one more way we put patients first.

Learn More Here:
Current clinical research trials at OHC
Infographic: OHC is Tri-state’s largest independent clinical trials provider


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