The Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego is launching a “My Answer to Cancer” program that initially will perform in-depth targeted sequencing to examine hundreds of known cancer genes for mutations in tumor biopsies from 1,000 patients.

In the quest to provide personalized cancer treatment, the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), is launching “My Answer to Cancer,” a program that intertwines clinical care and research.

The initial goal of the program is in-depth targeted sequencing to examine tumor biopsies from 1,000 patients for mutations in hundreds of known cancer genes. If the analysis reveals a known mutation or other aberration that can be treated with an approved or experimental drug, the patient will be treated with that drug, explains Scott M. Lippman, MD, director of Moores, a National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The analysis will be done with equipment and facilities that meet Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) standards, so the results can be used to direct patient care. The intent is to exploit the best technology available in the CLIA setting and to continually adopt newer technologies as they emerge, Lippman emphasizes.

If no known “actionable” mutations or other molecular aberrations are found in the CLIA setting, a subsequent more intensive evaluation may be done, including full genomic sequencing as well as proteomic and RNA analysis, where appropriate, to reach a better understanding of the underlying defects that drive the tumor's growth. The latter will initially be done in a research setting, and patterns noted and correlated with responses will inform further development of molecular tests to be applied in the clinical setting under stringent CLIA conditions.

“UCSD's new, cutting-edge Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine will work to customize testing that is best coordinated with clinical studies at Moores,” Lippman adds. There will be close synchronization between multiple specialists, including pathologists, surgeons, medical oncologists, and other clinicians, as well as bioinformatics experts, so that tissue is properly collected and handled, complicated information is swiftly analyzed, and timelines are streamlined, he notes.

“The idea is to quickly and continually incorporate innovations from the preclinical research setting into the clinical trial and treatment setting,” says Lippman.

The My Answer to Cancer program was kick-started with $500,000 in support from the UCSD Clinical and Translational Research Institute. The Institute is also providing matching funds for individual “investments,” which Moores hopes will cover most of the remaining cost, estimated at $5 million in the initial phase.

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