New trial to focus on proteomic approach to treat colorectal cancer

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Researchers at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., have started a three-year clinical trial in partnership with investigators at Inova Health System and Fairfax Northern Virginia Hematology Oncology research program to treat late-stage colorectal cancer patients based on the protein makeup of their tumors.

“If we're going to be successful in treating the metastatic disease, which is what kills people, then we need to focus on using therapies targeted towards the individuality of a patient's disease state. This clinical trial is the first step toward doing that," said Kirstin Edmiston, MD, medical director of cancer services at Inova, based in Alexandria, Va.

The researchers will sample lesions using reverse phase protein microarray and create a unique molecular profile that shows which protein pathways or drug targets are activated in the lesion. The process could allow the researchers to determine whether specific drugs, such as Gleevec, might be an effective treatment for this particular patient before it is even administered, according to George Mason.

The trial will enroll up to 50 men and women who have late-stage colorectal cancer and will be treated with standard metastatic colon cancer therapy and Gleevec.

The researchers predict that this clinical trial will lead to more effective and individualized treatment for patients with late-stage colorectal cancer.

"Until now, the most cutting edge clinical trials utilize genomic profiling of the tumor to select patients. This is the first trial that uses a direct proteomic approach that maps the drug target activation networks that are in use in each patient's tumor--just technologically being able to do this in a real clinical trial is a first," said Emanuel Petricoin, III, professor of life sciences and co-director of George Mason's Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine in Fairfax, Va.