Any child coming to Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s (or adults to Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center) for treatment, consultation, or a second opinion can join our Profile research study, one of the country’s most comprehensive precision cancer medicine initiatives. Patients simply provide consent for use of their tissue samples for research. No additional biopsies or blood draws are required beyond those already taken for diagnosis or treatment.
All types of hematological (blood) cancers, solid tumors, and brain tumors are studied in the Profile research study. Ultimately, this important research project will result in a database of genetic changes in all types of cancer. The findings of Profile research are advancing scientists’ understanding of the genetic causes of cancer and how knowing that information may ultimately lead to improved treatment.
Sequencing of the samples, which is done at the Center for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, involves detailed analysis of over 400 genes in tumor cells that have been implicated in or suspected of causing cancer. This analysis can detect mutations – “typos” in the letters of the DNA code – as well as segments of genetic code that are missing or duplicated, and broken or reshuffled chromosomes.
This testing is being performed primarily to increase scientific knowledge. However, if an individual’s test reveals information that could be of clinical benefit, those results will be returned to his or her doctor as long as the patient and/or their family indicated an interest in the results when signing up for the study. Some genetic changes indicate that a certain drug will be particularly effective, while other DNA alterations might indicate that the tumor is resistant to specific treatments.
In certain cases, the culprit mutations in a patient’s tumor can serve as “targets” for new designer cancer drugs. Such targeted drugs – unlike conventional chemotherapy – attack specific molecules and processes in cancer cells to shut down their growth, while sparing normal cells and tissues that don’t have these targets.