Chemosensitivity testing can accurately measure if the drugs you might take will have any effect on your personal cancer. While a positive score might not be reflected totally when it comes to real-life use in your body, a poor score will tell you that it is a waste of time taking that drug. Chemosensitivity testing can also look at natural bioactive compounds and how they might fare against your particular cancer.
Chemosensitivity - Will the drugs work with my personal cancer?
If you could take a sample of your cancer, put it into a dish, and then show which drugs worked best against your personal cancer cells and, importantly, which did not work at all, you’d want to know, wouldn’t you? In an ideal world you’d then know which drugs were going to work best, before you used any. Any you wouldn´t bother taking those that showed no signs of working at all.
Well, that is chemosensitivity testing.
In 2016 researchers in the Jules Bordet Clinic in Brussels showed that about 15 per cent of breast cancer drug use at the outset of treatment was simply unnecessary. They developed a genetic test, the mamaprint, so women with low risk of a breast cancer returning after surgery could avoid the trauma of chemotherapy.
Is the mamaprint used? Is chemosensitivity used by mainstream doctors? Rarely.
Scientists understand the problem. Unfortunately, many oncologists simply do not and are, worse, bound by ´Best Practice´ principles in their hospitals to treat all patients with a pre-planned protocol of drugs. If these prove ineffective they will simply then ´try´ other drugs, even using clinical trial drugs with no idea whether or not them might work on you and your very personal cancer. You are a guinea pig. To put this in context, one study of 4,700 women with DCIS breast cancer showed that no two women had the same cancer - they were ALL histologically different! No wonder some people simply respond better to a drug than others.
And there are hundreds drug combinations that are used for different cancer patients.
Many drugs were approved decades ago but are still used today. Old drugs like 5-FU (Fluorourocil) are still widely used to treat cancers like breast and colorectal, but it was approved in 1956 and, whilst it might kill a cancer cell or two, it is known to be very harmful to your healthy cells.
And, over time, a drug´s ability to work in some people diminishes more rapidly than in others.
Thus the benefit of chemosensitivity testing is that INDIVIDUAL patients can be assessed at any moment in time for which drugs will maximise their PERSONAL cancer cell and tumour death, kicking out those that haven´t a chance. Thus ineffective, unnecessary exposure to drugs and their side-effects is minimised.
Some people go to private clinics for expensive drug treatments like IPT (Insulin Potentiation Treatment) where only a fiftieth of the drug volume is used. It has to be a really good idea to test whether a drug has any chance of working, before you pay the clinics fees!
Chemosensitivity - will the natural compounds I´m taking do any good?
Many people take ´supplements´. Some take up to 3.2 grams of curcumin. Other people think about Intravenous vitamin C injections, B-17 or artemesinin (Sweet wormwood).
If you could also test for the effectiveness of bioactive natural compounds like curcumin, indole 3 carbinol and B-17 against your cancer, you would find that useful too, wouldn´t you? Especially if that effectiveness were ranked against the drugs proposed!
Many chemosensitivity centres will also provide a similar assessment of the effectiveness of up to 35 bioactive natural compounds too.
The Politics of chemosensitivity testing
Twenty years ago, a drug like 5-FU was given on its own for breast cancer. Now standard treatment might involve 5-FU plus Epirubicin and Cyclophosphamide for three rounds, with the addition of a fourth drug, Docetaxel for three more rounds. That’s a lot of drugs.
With colorectal cancer, FOLFOX involves Folinic Acid, 5-FU and Oxaliplatin. FOLFIRI involves Folinic Acid, 5-FU and Irinotecan. 6 rounds, again means a lot of drugs.
If chemosensitivity tests show certain common drugs are not worth using or simply do not work, Pharmaceutical Companies could lose serious volume and profit.
Drugs like Temozolomide are already known not to work for more than 20 per cent of people with GBM brain cancer, but still seem to be given to almost 100 per cent . Chemosensitivity testing would help more accurately predict which 20% in advance, saving the false hope and heartache, let alone the recipient side-effects.
Some oncologists quote statistics at patients. Some women are told Tamoxifen will only increase their chances of preventing a cancer´s return by 1.5%; another was told that Taxol only has an effect in 3% of cases. But these are averages. We know of one woman who had chemosensitivity testing and Taxol produced a very positive result. It did in real life too.
Doctors want the best for their patients, they should not be afraid of the emergence of the use of chemosensitivity.
Government Health Bodies like the NHS in the UK need to save money; this would be a great way to do it.
Patients want to be cured and have less side-effects.
But Big Pharma see chemosensitivity testing as a threat to profits.
Chemosensitivity testing – accurate or not?
But two decades on, and Chemosensitivity tests are hardly more polished than they were at the outset, largely because of a sort of damning faint praise. The Internet is full of experts saying they are full of potential, but there’s an element of ‘Fool’s Gold’ in the criticisms.
For example, the National Cancer Institute believes they have potential importance in clinical trials. The American Society of Clinical Oncology produced a review of seven years of studies on chemosensitivity testing and again ran the ‘full of potential, but confine them to clinical trials’ message.
We also know of patients who have asked their oncologists to use chemosensitivity testing only to be told ´Just because it works in a dish, doesn´t mean it will work in real life´. This is absolutely true. But if it doesn´t work in the dish, it certainly isn´t going to work in real life, and most patients would like to know that up-front!!
One study was very clear that Chemosensitivity Tests could already help. In a study from Northwestern University in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2011) chemosensitivity testing ‘closely predicted patients’ real life experience and “accurately predicted progression-free and overall survival.”
Chemosensitivity – use and costs
One problem is that different laboratories test in different ways. 3D testing is the new kid on the block.
The three important factors are:
1. You should only measure cell death – not the inhibition of growth
2. You should take tumour cells and test them immediately. Growing cultures in a dish can give false results as the new cells may not represent the metabolism of the original tumour.
3. The environment may also affect results, so the tumour environment must be maintained. Chemosensitivity testing is not cheap, especialy where a patient might be offered 4 different drugs over a few years. Each assay can be $3,500 to $4,500 (up to £3,000 pounds). This may be covered by insurance.
Chemosensitivity testing - getting you a cheaper deal
If you can get chemosensitivity testing at a sensible price it is well worth doing. And CANCERactive in the UK is trying to sort something out right now for its readers. Chris Woollams, founder of CANCERactive and former Oxford University Biochemist said, "We are determined to bring this to our patients at a sensible price. Chemosensitivity testing can give you help and more insight. No one wants to suffer extreme side-effects from a drug that is never going to work!.
And many people would like to know, in advance, if those expensive intravenous injections of vitamins and natural compounds are going to do any good, or will they be a waste of money? This is a no brainer. We just want to get the price down for people."
CANCERactive - leading the way in Integrative Oncology.
It's the future of cancer treatment.