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Albany Med Today

Pathologist's Work May Provide New Targeting Options for Cancer Patients

Albany Medical Center’s top pathologist was instrumental in developing a new process for analyzing cancer-related genes that could allow for the application of more individualized, targeted and timely therapies to treat a wide variety of malignancies.

In studies published last year, Jeffrey Ross, MD, Cyrus Strong Merrill Professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, described the results of a test that identifies cancer-causing mutations in all of the known cancer-related genes by analyzing DNA at the genomic level. As a result of his research, he also reported the mutations present in an aggressive form of bladder cancer for the first time.

Dr. Ross said that being able to target the initial mutations that drive a cancer’s progression provides an opportunity to target treatment in ways that could offer more effective and less toxic therapies in the future. Dr. Ross, whose studies focused on breast, ovarian and the other cancers using tumor specimens from patients treated at Albany Med, conducted the research with a team at Foundation Medicine, Inc., a molecular information company located in Cambridge, Mass.

“With this test, we are able to find the mutation that makes this specific type of cancer progress, giving us the opportunity to pursue treatments targeted at those cells or to develop clinical trials if no treatment currently exists,” Dr. Ross said. “Not all cancers, even when they originate in the same place, are the same on the genomic level.” He is continuing this research on other cancer-related genes in different cancer types.

While targeted therapy rarely “cures” cancer, it has been shown to stop its progress and relegate it to dormancy, Dr. Ross said.

“The work Dr. Ross is doing is significant,” said medical oncologist David R. Shaffer, MD, PhD, of New York Oncology Hematology and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Albany Medical College. “Most oncologists are feeling this is the best test of its type right now to pave the way for more targeted therapies.”