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Physicians Update


Physicians Update

Fall 2010

Colorectal Cancer Research Aims at Personalization


Clinical research into treatments for colorectal cancer has focused on personalizing drug therapies to maximize benefit and minimize harm to patients, as well as to pioneer new drugs by advancing what is known about what drives patients’ colorectal tumor growth in the first place.

“We know that certain drugs work in some patients and not in others, depending on which genes the patients express,” says medical oncologist Zev Wainberg, M.D., co-director of the UCLA GI Oncology Program. “We want to be able to identify and treat subsets of patients who will benefit most from the drugs we have available. And we want to develop new drugs for those who may actually experience more harm than good from existing drugs.”

Clinical research has focused on finding novel ways to block pathways that spur growth of colorectal tumors — including the death receptor pathway, the MEK pathway and insulin growth factor. UCLA is also involved in a tumor-collection study to better understand which genes drive tumors at early stages, since colorectal cancer often recurs in patients who are treated for early-stage disease.

“We have effective drugs, but often the drugs are short-lived, and as the patient’s disease progresses, the drugs no longer work,” Dr. Wainberg explains. “Through clinical research at UCLA, we can often help patients who have been through all of the standard therapies and seem to have run out of options.” Most of these trials are open label and not placebo controlled.

For more information about clinical trials at UCLA, go to: http://clinicaltrials.ucla.edu

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