Online databases display cancer cells' sensitivities to drugs

Personalized cancer care received another shot in the arm this week when researchers published free online databases outlining potential cancer vulnerabilities to various drugs. The databases were outlined in a pair of studies and published in the journal Nature, according to the Boston Globe's White Coat Notes.

One database displayed results stemming from testing of 130 potential treatments on more than 600 types of cancer cells. Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center collaborated with researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in England for the study.

Researchers from the Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, as well as the Broad Institute and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, both based in Cambridge, Mass., worked on the second database, which detailed the reactions of 947 human cancer cells to 24 anticancer drugs.

Pier Paolo Pandolfi, scientific director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, called the encyclopedic databases "an invaluable resource," according to the Globe. Pandolfi had no affiliation with either research team.

"It's a monumental amount of work, which will be useful and used in the years to come," Pandolfi told the newspaper. 

Earlier this month, the Greenville (S.C.) Hospital System's University Medical Center announced that it will test a gene sequencer, which has the ability to identify the genetic makeup of a patient's cancer and then determine a treatment. The tool is expected to reduce the time from diagnosis to therapy to a week.

And in similar personalized medicine news, researchers at Stanford University recently created a pair of online databases outlining adverse events stemming from thousands of drugs. A computer algorithm developed by the researchers allowed doctors to differentiate between drug-related adverse events in patients and adverse events from other illnesses.

To learn more:
- here's the MGH Cancer Center study (subscription required)
- read through the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute research (subscription required)
- check out the Boston Globe article

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