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Madrid, September 19, 2019: MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid has just launched a platform specifically designed by the Cancer Genomics Research team, which makes it possible to predict chemotherapy toxicity in cancer patients through a genetic test. On the occasion of World Research Day, which is celebrated every September 24, Drs. Juan Fernando Garcia, head of Anatomic Pathology and Scientific Director; Jose Maria Vieitez, head of the Digestive Tumors Section of the Medical Oncology Service; and Gema Moreno, head of the Translational Research Laboratory, the professionals who are behind the development of the platform, have taken the opportunity to announce that the platform can already be used in any of the patients in the hospital, regardless of the type of tumor they have.

This genetic test is able to identify and analyze the variants (polymorphisms) in the DNA that can cause greater or lesser toxicity to the treatments. "A polymorphism is a variation in the DNA sequence present in more than 1% of individuals in a population," explains Dr. Garcia.

So, the presence of one or more specific genetic variants in enzymes involved in the metabolism or transport of drugs present in a patient can mean they will they tolerate chemotherapy treatment better or worse. "The main advantage of knowing these variants is that we can predict what toxicity to a certain treatment the patient will have and, in the case the analyzed variants indicate that he/she may develop severe adverse effects, we can opt for another treatment plan", explains Doctor Vieitez. In addition, he continues, “in those cases in which there is no alternative treatment, the dose can be adjusted and monitoring of the patient can be adapted”.

Dr. Moreno adds, “this type of approach allows us to advance in so-called precision medicine by allowing us to know beforehand what the patient's clinical behavior will be and avoiding, as far as possible, the development of additional adverse effects".

A simple blood sample before starting treatment

To obtain these results, only a blood sample is needed which should ideally be taken just after confirmation of the diagnosis and before starting a pharmacological treatment. “This can be done at any time during the process and, in fact, the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) recommends this type of study in case of unexpected toxicity with certain drugs like 5fu". However, he clarifies, "the ideal option is to use the platform as a prevention to personalize the treatment from the outset".

For the moment, we essentially look at the response to conventional chemotherapy because that is where there is more documentation and scientific and clinical evidence, but the idea is to expand and update the platform as research progresses in the future. “This knowledge on the toxicity or not of cancer treatment has been acquired with experience and the course of time and, in the case of targeted therapies or immunotherapy, we still have a way to go before time allows us to accumulate sufficient evidence “, says the specialist.