MUHC hoping to extend lives with precision oncology

Click to play video: 'New MUHC research leading to cancer treatment breakthrough'
New MUHC research leading to cancer treatment breakthrough
WATCH: Cutting-edge oncology research is leading to some new breakthroughs in treating cancer. It's far from a cure, but researchers at the MUHC are helping to extend the lives of their patients – Dec 10, 2021

David Platts is hoping a new medication he’s receiving will help extend his life.

The patient of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) has Stage 4 liver cancer but he’s just started a prescription drug that targets a specific mutation of his tumour.

“It’s very exciting to know there is a possible particular treatment,” Platts told Global News.

The MUHC repurposed an existing medication to treat his cancer after scientists at its research institute sequenced a mutation of his tumour and found a drug that can treat it.

“This is the first time this particular drug has been used in Canada for this particular mutation,” Dr. Peter Metrakos, the senior scientist of the MUHC research institute, told Global News.

The Research Institute (RI) of the MUHC is focusing on precision oncology, which is much more targeted to treat individual cancerous tumours in patients.

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Metrakos says his research team has been working on this type of medical advancement for years and it’s targeted — as opposed to a more general, one-size-fits-all approach, which was not working for Platts.

“We were running out of therapeutic options so the tumour was progressing,” Metrakos said.

More than 60 scientists work in the oncology department of the RI working on precision oncology. Some researchers are shaving razor-thin fragments off of human liver tissues with cancerous tumours attached to them and putting them on slides where they will be analyzed.

Other tumours are being grown in test tubes where they can be analyzed and treated externally.

Scientists are hoping all of this work will lead to new medical breakthroughs.

“Hopefully we would be able, in the next few years, to show some change in the treatment of cancer patients,” Miran Rada, researcher at the MUHC’s oncology department, told Global News.

A recent $2-million grant donated to the MUHC is helping to finance the medical advancements in the oncology department.

“This donation is actually going to allow us to bring precision oncology right here to the MUHC,” Julie Quenneville, MUHC Foundation president and CEO, told Global News.

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The new treatment Platts is receiving is not a cure but it is supposed to extend his life.

“It’s going to give me some more months, if not more time than that, of good time with family and loved ones,” he said.

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