Predict Response to Chemotherapy?

Last Modified: September 8, 2006

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I was diagnosed with Stage IIIC ovarian cancer in Nov. 2005. I had a hysterectomy and tumor debulking at that time. I have most recently been on IV Taxol and Carboplatin chemotherapy, and have responded best to this combination. What is the best predictable factor that will indicate how one person will respond to a specific chemo regime better than others? In the laparoscopy, Dr. Walker was going to send tissue for chemosensitivity assays, but no tumor or malignancy was present.

Answer

Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

Your question about how best to predict a cancer's response to chemotherapy is very important. There are a variety of methods available to test an individual's tumor cells in the lab for response to different chemotherapy drugs. All of these methods require harvest of tumor cells, either in a solid biopsy specimen or in fluid. These tests appear to have a good chance of telling us which drugs are NOT useful. Stated another way, when the lab tests say that the cancer cells in the biopsy specimen were resistant to a certain chemotherapy, there is a good correlation to how the tumor will react in the body when treated with the same drug. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true. It is much more difficult for these tests to tell us what drugs will actually cause the tumor to shrink in the body. In addition, tumors are composed of many different types of cells. Some cells may be sensitive to one chemotherapy and resistant to another, while other cells from the same tumor may have different sensitivities.



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