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Cataloguing Cancer: May 8, 2014

At its very heart, cancer is the result of cells gone wrong. As researchers study the genetics, they are finding that where a cancer originated in the body may be less important than what drove its creation.

“Genes that govern its behavior, its aggressiveness, where it likes to travel, how it responds to certain treatments - are all governed by the genetics of the cancer cell,” says Dr. Constantine Mantz. Dr. Mantz is radiation oncologist on medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

The direction in cancer treatment is to move toward identifying genetic mutations. Then finding a weakness to exploit them.

 We can be far more accurate in our predictions about how it’s going to behave the rest of that person’s life; how curable it is,” says Dr. Mantz. “And also much smarter about selecting the therapies that are going to be effective because we are discovering that certain drugs work most optimally when certain genetics are present.”

In order to speed up the identification of genes, researchers have been comparing diseased samples to healthy genes. By cataloguing cancer they can move towards more personalized treatment.

“Being able to identify through sophisticated tests such as molecular assays and other related types of examinations what specific genes and proteins are expressed by these cancer cells allows to do a much more customized job,” Dr. Mantz says.

Oncologists are doing this with breast cancer and are working towards other genetic profiles. Which may help them one day essentially turn off cancer.