John Deeken, MD, is board certified in medical oncology. He specializes in treating patients with head and neck cancer. He is especially interested in using genomics to personalize cancer treatments and in developing targeted therapies. Dr. Deeken serves as associate director for Clinical Research for the Inova Dwight and Martha Schar Cancer Institute. In addition, he is the medical director for Medical Oncology at Inova. Read Dr. Deeken’s profile.
The cancer-fighting community now has the scientific and technological ability to bring personalized medicine to clinical research trials.
Today, when we look at cancer, we are not asking, “Where did it start in the patient’s body?” Rather, we ask, “What genetic mutations are driving this patient’s tumor to grow?” Our vision at Inova focuses on the personalized needs of each patient using new insights and methods of treatment.
A large national trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute opens today. This trial, called the NCI-MATCH (Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice), is part of our response to the growing need for personalized medicine. It is a direct result of President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative.
If successful, it will fundamentally change how we treat cancer: Instead of grouping patients by the type of cancer or tumor, we will group them based on their tumor mutation (which we will determine through a tumor biopsy). Then, we can study the success of various drugs with a higher degree of accuracy.
The Right Treatment, Right Away
We will assign each participating patient to one of the eventually 30 arms of the trial, each arm representing a different drug. The goal is to see if this new targeted “smart-bomb” approach treats cancer in a more effective and less costly way. If we already know a certain drug will or will not work on someone with certain genetics, then we won’t waste time and money prescribing the wrong treatment. In addition, the patient will not have to endure unnecessary side effects. The goal: Get the right treatment at the right dose for the right patient, right away.
Inova: A National Leader in Cancer Treatment
From a national perspective, NCI-MATCH is one of the most exciting studies we’ve ever done at Inova. It aligns with our vision of personalized, genomics-based healthcare. This trial will help us become a national leader in treating cancer on a personalized level. If this trial is a success, a decade from now we will be treating cancer very differently—and much more effectively.