Two cancer centers work on intercepting cancer

Penn Medicine and the Fox Chase Cancer Center are both working on treatments and models that could intercept cancer in the early stages.

The goal of interception is to catch cancer cells as they begin to develop into pre-cancers or very early cancers, and halt or reverse that process, according to an article by Penn Medicine. The practice is already used to some degree during colonoscopies in which physicians snip adenomatous polyps that could become colorectal tumors.

"Interception is not prevention per se, and it's not therapy. It's truly taking the football out of the quarterback's hands," Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center and the John H. Glick Abramson Cancer Center Professor in the Perelman School of Medicine, explained. "If we can do this successfully, it will be a whole new space to impact the burden of cancer."

Penn Medicine researchers are taking a number of approaches to intercepting cancer, including:

  • Mapping cells in women with and without genetic mutations which can lead to breast cancer.

  • Testing a novel vaccine for women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

  • Developing blood-based biomarkers to catch pancreatic cancer at early stages.

  • Developing the pre-cancer atlas for BRCA mutations, which helped create an approach to intercept cancer in patients with von Hippel-Lindau disease.

Philadelphia-based Fox Chase Cancer Center is also working on intercepting cancer with a vaccine trial aimed at blocking Lynch syndrome tumors, 6ABC reported Feb. 28. The vaccine targets proteins produced by the genetic mutations as they set the stage for cancer. Lynch syndrome refers inherited genetic mutations that are tied to increased colon and endometrial cancers before age 50. It's also tied to other tumors, including ovarian, stomach and pancreatic.

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