Doctors at Washington University in St. Louis say they’ve learned that preliminary testing on cervical tumors can predict how effective standard treatments will be on them.
Assistant professor of radiation oncology Julie Schwarz, MD, PhD, says the current treatment of cervical cancer beyond a certain stage employs platinum.
“Platinum is thought to be a radiosensitizer so it’s thought that just getting this a spot in chemotherapy helps the radiation work better, but one of the findings from this study is that the individual tumor cell’s sensitivity to that reagent, if it doesn’t respond to that reagent, it doesn’t do well. That sort of tells us that the chemotherapy by itself and picking the right chemotherapy is really, really important.”
Schwarz says this study was limited in scope, though, and she hopes it will lead to a case study that might help develop a more definitive test.
“You would enroll patients on a study where you would test their tumors up front to figure out if they’re insensitive to platinum. If they were insensitive to platinum would you then pick another reagent, and the question is what reagent would you pick, first of all, and how would you sort of rationalize and put patients in groups, and that’s sort of where some of our laboratory work is coming into play.”
Schwarz says researchers at Washington University are looking at how a number of cancers are treated and asking the same kinds of questions.
“This research is just part of a whole group of studies that’s being performed to figure out if [using standard treatments] is the right approach, and the results of this study and many others are sort of leading us to believe that’s not the right assumption … that we need to sort of individualize chemotherapy treatment for cervical cancer.”
She thinks that even in the next decade, doctors might be able to use a preliminary test on certain types of cancers to determine what treatments will be most effective on an individual tumor. Her aim is to make sure that cervical cancer is one of them.
The new findings have been published in the online journal Gynecologic Oncology.