Office of Research & Development

VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
 

New Initiatives

VA launches precision oncology pilot


A new VA program being piloted in the New England region seeks to boost the use of genetically targeted drugs to treat lung cancer.
A new VA program being piloted in the New England region seeks to boost the use of genetically targeted drugs to treat lung cancer. (Photo: National Library of Medicine)

A new VA program being piloted in the New England region seeks to boost the use of genetically targeted drugs to treat lung cancer. (Photo: National Library of Medicine)

VA's New England Healthcare System (VISN 1) and the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center (MAVERIC) have instituted a clinical program to help VISN 1 Veterans who have been newly diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer.

As these patients are newly diagnosed, network physicians will take a specimen of their tumor and send it to qualified laboratories for targeted genomic sequencing, a process that determines the DNA sequence of genes that are considered important in lung cancer.

The sequencing will identify the specific mutations, or changes, that are causing the Veteran's lung cancer cells to exist and grow, enabling doctors to take better care of these patients. While hundreds of such mutations exist, each patient's cancer has a unique combination of them. A number of mutations lead to alterations in the cancer that can now be specifically targeted by drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of patients with lung cancer.

VA researchers will also use the genomic sequencing information they obtain to offer Veterans opportunities to take part in clinical trials of new drugs targeted toward their specific mutations, and to add their data to repositories helping scientists to continue unlocking the mysteries of cancer.

Once the program is well underway, VISN 1 expects to expand genomic sequencing testing to all forms of cancer, and hopes such testing will begin to take place at all VISNs nationwide.


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