Genetic data now used to help treat cancer patients at UVM Medic - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Genetic data now used to help treat cancer patients at UVM Medical Center

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The UVM Medical Center is now using patients' genetic information to make a more accurate diagnosis and figure out the best way to take care of them. WCAX News found out what it means for local cancer patients' treatment.

Inside a brand new, $2.7 million genomic medicine laboratory in the University of Vermont Medical Center, health officials are diving into DNA to try to give cancer patients their best shot at survival.

"That's where we work with DNA, set up reactions and they're kept very clean so that DNA doesn't travel from one reaction to another," said Dr. Debra Leonard, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at UVM Medical Center.

Leonard is the driving force behind the program at the medical center. She says they test tumor tissue samples from lung, colon and melanoma cancer patients to figure out what specific genes are driving their cancer to grow. That way they can figure out which targeted therapies will work.

"Those targeted therapies tend to have fewer side effects than the typical chemotherapy that is used that kills all dividing cells," said Leonard.

But those therapies are also more expensive and this lab aims to make sure that patients don't go through a costly treatment that won't do them any good.

"It targets those more expensive treatments only to those patients who will respond to them so that those expensive treatments are not used across all patients, just those who will respond," said Leonard.

In the future, the lab plans to expand their research to blood cancers and also look at how genetics affect which drugs will work best for patients. They also plan to do genome sequencing to identify and study inherited disorders. 

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