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Largest report on POG findings may help doctors provide more personalized treatment options

Research insights could help inform how oncologists choose treatments, clinical trial enrollment, or who may benefit from off-label medication use.
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​Cancers can be as unique as the patient. BC Cancer researchers have recently published a study looking at the clinical data from 570 adult patients with advanced or metastatic cancer, who participated in the Personalized OncoGenomics (POG) program from 2012-2017. This represents the largest report on the clinical aspects of POG to date with results that show how genome sequencing can be used to inform the selection of real-time treatment options.

The POG program is a research initiative taking place at BC Cancer that uses genomic data to study cancer growth, spread and response to treatment. Patients with advanced cancers enrolled in the program have their tumours genetically sequenced, and analyzed and this data is then discussed with oncologists, pathologists and other members of the cancer care team on a Molecular Tumour Board to identify potential treatment targets or diagnostic implications that can inform patient care.

The recent findings indicated that 83 per cent of patients had findings considered actionable by the tumour board. 248 treatments were given to patients based on the genetic data of their cancer with 46 per cent of patients deriving some clinical benefit.

GSC staff scientist Dr. Erin Pleasance and clinical informatics team lead Dr. Laura Williamson co-authored the study.


"One finding that was somewhat unexpected was how frequently clinicians used the POG information to help guide choice of standard, funded therapy" notes Pleasance. "In 75 per cent of cases where standard therapy was informed by genomic data, the physician chose a different standard therapy than they were planning to use, or chose from several options they were considering. This is an underappreciated use of genomic data that we hope will become more commonly considered in the field."

The POG program has expanded scientific understanding of the biology of advanced cancer, including the impact of treatment on the cancer genome; the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism. Dr. Janessa Laskin, the clinical lead of the POG program notes, "POG has helped us to identify vulnerabilities in cancer cells that we can target with existing or novel treatment strategies. We have demonstrated that the more information we have as clinicians, the more treatment opportunities we may find for patients."

"POG also can support the design of new clinical trials that can in turn improve our selection of effective treatment for patients," adds Williamson. "Combined with other studies occurring across Canada and around the world, these efforts expand our understanding of tumour biology, support the development of therapies and clinical trials, and ultimately improve health outcomes for patients living with cancer."

Drs. Pleasance, Laskin, Williamson, and the team of researchers and clinicians supporting the POG program are also exploring emerging technologies such as long read sequencing and epigenomic profiling to understand how these methods may further enhance their understanding of cancer biology and patient care. They will continue to collaborate with other researchers worldwide to share the information generated from POG to benefit those with cancer in B.C. and around the world.

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