As researchers discover that cancers can be specifically targeted with a particular drug, the question then arises – which medication works best for a unique individual with a particular cancer? Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the company Presage Biosciences have created a device called CIVO™ to answer that very question.
In the past, oncologists have made their best guess as to which medication protocol would work on a particular cancer, based on data from animal models, clinical trials, and their medical expertise. In this scenario, only one drug can be tested at a time. Researchers know that there is considerable variation between how a drug affects a tumor in different individuals. The end result — a patient can be treated with no positive effect on treating the cancer, but they experience uncomfortable side effects of the medication nonetheless.
The CIVO™ device can change that model.
Using up to eight tiny needles, a patient’s tumor is injected with multiple drugs that have been shown to have an impact on that particular cancer. The drug amounts are miniscule compared to what could be delivered to a patient for treatment purposes. The patient will in all likelihood not experience the painful side effects of a full dose of the medication. The test subjects also report little pain during the injection process.
In one to three days, doctors remove a piece of the tumor and examine it in the lab. They can then see which medication killed the cancer cells, slowed their growth or was ineffective. That piece of information can work wonders for doctors trying to determine the best drug protocols for their patients. And potentially patients will not have to suffer needlessly while undergoing a treatment that may not ultimately work well.
CIVO is has been used on animal subjects and is now part of a human study as well as a collaboration between Presage, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, with funding support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Researchers are hopeful that this new technology will shine a brighter light on what drugs work best on which cancers in certain individuals. That will be welcome relief for patients who have just been diagnosed with cancer and are anxious about medication side effects.