Feist-Weiller Cancer Center Adds Human Genome Sequencing

By Nikki Henderson | nhenderson@ktalnews.tv

Published 07/11 2014 04:27PM

Updated 07/11 2014 04:30PM

New technology that could revolutionize the treatment of cancer is now available for LSU Health Shreveport physicians and researchers.

The Human Genome Sequencing allows doctors and scientists to identify the specific mutation causing a patient's cancer and prescribe a drug that targets it.

Dr. Glenn Mills, Director of LSU's Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, said he expects most cancer centers to have the technology within the next five years. 

Mills said, "Treatment of cancer is changing. Now we give chemo based on clinical trials and evidence that it helps most people with a certain kind of cancer, but some people have tumors with different mutations. They are subject to the side effects and toxicity, and it's not helping them."

Mills also explained that with Human Genome Sequencing doctors can avoid drugs that won't work and selectively use those that will.  Chemo can be individualized to the patient. This has resulted in an explosion of new pharmaceutical products that are less toxic and more effective.

It takes a uniquely qualified expert to translate the technology for patient care. A basic scientist who returned to medical school at age 37, Molecular Pathologist Dr. Rodney Shackelford, is among that select group. He will work closely with cancer physicians to help determine the best treatments for patients.

For Dr. Shackelford, this technology and its promise for patients who are out of options is the reason he joined the health sciences faculty. Shackelford said, "If we're going to treat patients effectively, we have to have this."

LSU Health Shreveport researchers can use the machines in the Research Core Facility as part of their studies.

Patients at University Health Shreveport will now have access to this new technology. An announcement of a partnership to further establish clinical molecular profiling is forthcoming.

The Facts:

  • The new sequencer will also be useful for researchers to study genetic mutations and health disparities, as well as to follow patients to better understand the evolution of cancer.

  • The genomes of all human beings are 99% the same regardless of physical characteristics.

  • The technology is an advancement of the 13-year Human Genome Project completed in 2003, in which an army of scientists with super computers managed to create an entire genetic map of the human body.  Once scientists knew normal makeup of genes, it became possible to see what is abnormal:  mutations that causes cells to multiply uncontrollably.

  • Each of us begins as a single cell that contains the genetic information to construct every detail of our being. As cells multiply, ultimately reaching more than 100 trillion in a human body, the blueprint is encoded in each cell in a molecule called DNA.

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