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Researchers use patients' DNA to inform treatment decisions

Timely treatment of glioblastoma guided by genomic sequencing shows encouraging early results.

By Amy Wallace
Researchers use patients' DNA to inform treatment decisions
Researchers have effectively used genomics to inform treatment in patients with recurring glioblastoma. File photo by Volt Collection/Shutterstock

Oct. 27 (UPI) -- A recent study may provide new hope for patients with recurring glioblastoma, one of the most aggressive and deadliest forms of brain cancer.

The average overall survival for patients with glioblastoma is 15 months from diagnosis.

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Researchers from the Translational Genomics Research Institute, or TGen, the University of California San Francisco and the Ivy Foundation Early Phase Clinical Trials Consortium collaborated on the study involving 16 recurring glioblastoma patients.

The clinical trial used comprehensive DNA and RNA sequencing of a patient's tumor to determine treatment for patients in real time.

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Results of the trial, published today in Clinical Cancer Research, found that several patients with recurring glioblastoma survived more than a year after informed treatment.

"To our knowledge, this is the first report of a prospective profiling study in recurrent glioblastoma to show patients with extended time to progression following treatment with genomics-informed therapy," Dr. Sara Byron, research assistant professor in TGen's Integrated Cancer Genomics Division, said in a news release. "This is a primary example of the benefits of genomics-driven precision medicine being applied for patients with aggressive and refractory tumors."

Fifteen of the 16 patients were given TGen's genomics-informed treatment recommendations and seven of the 15 were treated by their doctors based on those recommendations.

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"Notably, two of the patients experienced progression-free survival -- meaning their tumor did not return or increase in size -- for more than a year, with one of these patients progression-free at 21 months, three times longer than the time to progression on their previous therapy," Dr. Michael D. Prados, a chair in Neurological Surgery at UCSF, said.

Challenges in glioblastoma treatment include its penetration to surrounding tissue making it impossible to completely surgically remove all of the tumor in the brain. The other challenge is treatment being able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, buffering the brain from the body's circulatory system.

"This precision-medicine study provides one of the first prospective demonstrations of using genome-wide molecular profiling to guide treatment recommendations for patients with recurrent glioblastoma within a clinically actionable time frame," Dr. Michael Berens, TGen deputy director for Research Resources, and professor and director of TGen's Cancer and Cell Biology Division, said.

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