Helen F. Graham Cancer Center to offer no-cost tumor profiling and DNA sequencing

Wilmington — The Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute of Christiana Care Health System is joining the Strata Precision Oncology Network to offer next-generation tumor profiling at no cost to patients with advanced or rare cancers. Based on the results, eligible patients will be matched to the best available clinical trials or most innovative therapy. The project begins on Feb. 1.

“This partnership with Strata will give our patients the opportunity to participate in precision medicine clinical trials without leaving the state of Delaware,” said Dr. Nicholas J. Petrelli, Bank of America endowed medical director of Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute. “Tumor profiling is becoming the state-of-the-art, and by collaborating with the unique strengths of Strata, the Graham Cancer Center will continue to stay on the cutting edge of cancer treatment and prevention.”

Christiana Care joins a select group of health systems in the country that are part of the Strata Network. The nationwide Strata Trial is open to solid tumor and lymphoma patients upon diagnosis of advanced disease.

Working with forward-thinking institutions like Christiana Care, Strata plans to provide genome sequencing of 100,000 patients in the next three years.

“Building partnerships that bring breakthrough cancer medicine to our patients is another example of Christiana Care’s innovation, delivering the best possible care for our neighbors in Delaware and surrounding communities,” said Dr. Janice E. Nevin, Christiana Care president and chief executive officer.

Cancer treatment is transitioning to a whole new platform. Treatments based on what the pathologist sees under a microscope are giving way to therapies based on a deeper genetic understanding of a person’s individual disease.

“Our DNA code is what governs function on a cellular level,” said Graham Cancer Center Medical Oncologist Dr. Michael Guarino. “Inherited – or more often acquired – defects in that code may lead to cancer. This new technology of genomic analysis gives us insights as to what distinguishes cancer from normal tissue and will provide us with more precise targets to strike, resulting in hopefully better outcomes.”

Most patients treated at regional or community cancer centers do not undergo routine tumor genome sequencing at the DNA or genetic level until all standard treatments have been exhausted. The testing is expensive and not widely covered by insurance. Consequently, patients with advanced cancer are often unaware of the molecular features of their disease and, without widespread testing, pharmaceutical companies are having difficulty finding patients for trials of new precision drugs that target specific defects or mutations in the DNA code.

“We are excited to partner with Strata to offer our patients with advanced cancer the opportunity to more fully characterize their tumors with the latest technology in molecular tumor profiling to better understand the molecular biology of their cancers,” said Lung Cancer Specialist Greg Masters, M.D., principal investigator for the National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program at the Graham Cancer Center. “We believe this will ultimately lead to more effective treatments and research trial participation targeting the unique genetic abnormalities of each patient’s cancer with precision. And this will be done without added expense for our patients or their insurance company.”

Tumor profiling requires a sample of the tumor tissue, either banked or from a new biopsy if that is part of the standard of care. Once genome sequencing is complete, a report detailing tumor mutations will be sent to the Graham Cancer Center’s multidisciplinary team of experts to review and, if appropriate, match the patient to an open clinical trial or recommend other therapeutic options. Patients who match to a clinical trial will be further screened according to Institutional Review Board and trial eligibility criteria. Not all patients profiled will match to a clinical trial.

The Strata Trial will be available at 50 hospitals across the Network, covering 75,000 analytic cancer cases per year. Strata Oncology’s growing portfolio of partnered therapeutic studies is available to eligible patients at the primary cancer center in each network.

Other participating institutions include Kaiser Permanente-Northern California, Ochsner Health System, Kettering Health Network, the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston, the Swedish Cancer Institute and the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.

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