"Genetic data helps us understand why a drug is effective, and the drug data helps us prioritize the genomic information, to know if the effect will apply to a lot of patients or to an individual patient," Tyner said.
Dr. Jerald Radich, a member of the clinical research division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, wrote in an editorial accompanying the research that "the study provides an example of the future of target discovery in cancer."
In an interview, Radich said that "in five to 10 years, scientists will be able to assess what the best possible fits are between your tumor and the drugs that are out there." Already, the U.S. National Cancer Institute is trying put people into specific clinical trials based on their genetic profiles, he added.
The research may be especially helpful for those who don't respond to traditional therapy. "What we now describe as good luck or bad luck is genetics that we don't understand," Radich said. "We'll look at those who completely fail regular therapy, and we'll do whole genome sequencing -- probably each patient will have 400,000 pieces of data -- and from that we'll put together a sense of what drives the genetics of nonresponders."
For study author Tyner, the research is just the beginning. "While this study is a nice advance, it's certainly not the end," he said. "We're ramping up to apply this paradigm to as many patients as we possibly can."
Learn more about leukemia from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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