Funded by volleyball tournaments, a new study released this week shows success in pinpointing individualized treatment for women with metastatic breast cancer, according to George Mason University researchers.

The Side-Out Foundation’s pilot study is part of a cutting-edge approach to personalized medicine that looks beyond genomic analysis alone to combine it with what some say is the next frontier in targeted therapy: proteomics.

The pilot study is the first of its kind to utilize novel protein activation mapping technology along with the genomic fingerprint of cancer as a way to find the most effective treatment. The trial was announced at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and is expected to expand into phase two this month.

Standard chemotherapy had failed the 25 women who participated in the 2.5-year pilot study, says study co-author Emanuel “Chip” Petricoin, co-director of George Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (CAPMM). Advanced tumors spread to the liver, brain, bone and other areas in metastatic breast cancer.

In every case, molecular profiling guided oncologists to a treatment that otherwise would not have been proscribed, says Nicholas Robert, study co-author and oncologist at Fairfax-based Virginia Cancer Specialists. The pilot study showed that nearly half the patients had at least a 30 percent increase in “progression-free survival,” which is the time between or during treatment that the cancer is not growing.

“The idea is to turn the tables against cancer by using molecular profiling,” says Robert, adding that some patients had improvements of four to six months of progression-free survival.

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