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POG breakthroughs: Unlocking the mysteries of cancer

The Personalized Onco-Genomics (POG) program at the BC Cancer Agency has identified life-altering treatment option for patients with advanced cancer. With BC Cancer Foundation funding, the BC Cancer Agency set forth with a world-leading clinical study as POG began integrating genomic sequencing into patient care and clinical decision-making for individuals with advanced and hard-to-treat cancers.

Zuri Scrivens was 33 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When the cancer reappeared at 35, she was enrolled in POG in 2013 to explore the possible benefits of metformin, a drug normally used to treat diabetes. She is also on letrozole, a drug that is used for the treatment of estrogen-positive breast cancer. Her cancer is now in remission.

POG has given patient Trish Keating a new reason to hope as the genomic sequencing of her aggressive colorectal cancer identified a unique protein function at play. This critical detail pointed to an outside-of-the-box treatment option in 2015, which dramatically reduced her cancer to barely detectable levels in just weeks.

For patients like Jen Strack, a non-smoker who was diagnosed in August 2013 with stage-4 lung cancer that wasn’t responding with standard chemotherapy, POG has literally been a lifesaver. After a year, it became clear that new solutions were needed. She enrolled in POG which pointed to a phase I clinical trial that unfortunately didn’t work, however her POG results also identified a different drug for her and the results have been dramatic shrinkage of the main tumour within one month. Each scan since has shown reductions in her tumours.

The treatment is a first for cancer care and the long-term outcomes remain unknown.

Since the clinical trials program launched in 2012, over 350 patients have enrolled in POG, representing 50 different cancer types. The next phase of this program, led by BC Cancer Agency medical oncologist Dr. Janessa Laskin and Genome Sciences Centre director Dr. Marco Marra, will see the number of patients expand to 2,000 over five years, setting a global precedent both in terms of the diversity of cancers investigated and the number of participants.

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