Canadian Kids with Cancer Should Receive Genetic Test to Check for Drug Reactions

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There is a new lab test that can predict if children with cancer are more likely to get side effects from chemotherapy treatment. Some side effects of the medications could threaten their lives. But doctors can now personalize the treatments according to the test results. At the moment, the scientists have released a test for three drugs. Now they’re working on developing a test on five other drugs.

Some People Are Genetically Susceptible to Side Effects

Bruce Carleton and Colin Ross are behind the lab test. They’ve just identified that three commonly prescribed drugs could cause children that are genetically susceptible to experience life-threatening side-effects.

Bruce Carleton is the director of the Pharmaceutical Outcomes Programme at B.C. Children’s Hospital, and together with his colleague Colin Ross has discovered side effects from three drugs used for treating cancer. The side effects can lead to heart failure, hearing loss or suppression of bone marrow. The last side effect makes the body less resistant in its fight against infections.

Carleton said that their four-year project is part of the study Genome Canada, and they will create a genetic database available to the public. This way, worldwide researchers can access it.

The project started two years ago, and Carleton has visited the B.C. Children’s Hospital clinic to give the cancer patients a genetic test. He wanted to determine if children had a risk for reaction to the treatment.

The Discussion Before Treatments – Talking About Side Effects

“I think that we can begin the conversations before treatment begins about what the adverse effect means, instead of waiting for it to occur and saying, ‘Well, this happens sometimes,.’ Often, parents say to me that the adverse effects of cancer chemotherapy were harder for them to manage and deal with than the survival questions because they’re not prepared for it,” said Carleton.

Currently, the researchers are now analyzing more than 6,100 DNA samples to discover if there is a genetic susceptibility to the side effects of other five drugs.

Rory Nichols, a four-year-old girl, had a tumor at the end of her tailbone at only three weeks after being born. With the genetic testing, the doctors realized that the chemotherapy drug they used could pose an 80% risk to her hearing. The young girl had already problems hearing some sounds. Bethany Prokuda, the mother, said about the test:

“If they can give them an answer and maybe be able to tailor the therapies so that these kids do have good outcomes, it’s absolutely essential. She’s definitely progressed better from where it was. From age two to age four she’s caught up on a lot of those sounds,” she said.

In addition, Dr. Rod Rassekh, together with Rory’s primary oncologist, stated that the genetic test “really helped spare a lot of her hearing.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere