CROSSVILLE— Personalized medicine is the wave of the future, Dr. Dirk Davidson said. That’s why he was happy to take part in a medical study on the effectiveness of a test to determine the best chemotherapy drugs for a patient.

“It’s a brave new world compared to when I started doing this 20-some years ago,” Davidson said. “A lot of it is still in its infancy, but new technology can provide more appropriate, more effective treatments with less toxicity. It can save a lot of misery and some people will live longer and a lot better.”

For the past five years, Davidson’s patients, at Tennessee Plateau Oncology on Cleveland Street in Crossville, have had access to a test than can determine which chemotherapy is most effective at treating each patient’s specific illness. Cancer is a complex illness with more than 100 actual diseases made up of genetic mutations of more than 100 different genes. It is treated with more than 200 different individual therapies.

The CorrectChemo test was developed to test a fresh cancer sample shipped to the laboratory. Cancer cells are separated from normal host cells and then different chemotherapeutic agents, as well as different combinations, are applied and cells are incubated. The test measures cell death of the cancer cells to determine the most effective form of treatment.

“It sounds promising,” Davidson said. “The way we determine treatment is going to change drastically each year. It won’t be long before, if we get a cancer, they probably will do a biopsy and issue a report that tells the physician your best combination to treat this cancer is X, Y, Z, which has never existed before.”

The test was developed by Dr. Vladimir Kravtsov, with the technology stemming from research he conducted at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 1996 that showed the test could predict patient outcomes. He joined DiaTech Oncology in Nashville in 2003, which funded the clinical trial to provide a rapid, predictable and proactive method of testing tumor cells. The CorrectChemo test has results available within 72 hours.

“It is exciting and we’ve had some neat discoveries that may be because of these tests,” Davidson said, saying patients who in, for example, the 1990’s would have lived a few months are able to extend their lives by years.

“We’ve been able to discover exactly how to treat them instead of going through our usual protocol of these drugs first and, if they don’t work, then these drugs. If they don’t work, then this drug.”

The CorrectChemo test developer has completed 17 national published studies and 10 national peer-reviewed studies on patient outcomes and cost savings. The company recently began its marketing campaign for the test.

Davidson has long strived to bring new technology to his patients.

“As these new tests become available, I’m eager to do them,” Davidson said.

As a solo practitioner, he is able to evaluate new tests and technology and new uses of technology for his patients and implement what he believes will be effective and best for his patients. Large centers often have numerous physicians who all must agree to implement new technology. The exception is clinical trials.

“We don’t have clinical trials. When I send people to Nashville, it’s to go on a clinical trial because they have a situation for where there isn’t any more standard treatment that is available,” he said.

Davidson said there continues to be advances in cancer treatment, pointing to tests now that can determine if a patient with colon cancer, for example, will benefit from chemotherapy or if a breast cancer patient needs to continue with hormonal therapy after five years if there is no continuing benefit of the treatment.

There is still work to be done, however. Davidson pointed to the CorrectChemo test and how it could determine, for example, a drug approved for one cancer would be most effective at treating this patient’s disease, but the drug isn’t approved for that application.

“I would like to see a nationwide trial in conjunction with labs and an array of pharmaceutical companies to bypass roadblocks,” Davidson said. “We may not find a lot of drugs with different uses, but there will be subsets that respond to drugs not approved for their treatment that will be superior to anything else we could do. And we could quickly approve lots of drugs for new uses.”

Source: Crossville Chronicle, CorrectChemo by DiaTech Oncoloyg, June 2014