Featured Article April 30, 2019

Translation to medicine: The Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative

A snowy, sunny landscape fill the windows along two walls of the conference room at the Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta, Maine. Oncologists Jens Rueter and oncologist Rachit Kumar are reviewing the case of one of Kumar’s patients, identified only as a 56-year-old female with a malignant tumor on her pancreas. Other experts, including clinical expert Lincoln Nadeau and clinical trials support specialist Catherine DelVecchio, are at the table or on speakerphone, discussing genetic variants found in the patient’s tumor and possible treatment options.

This is a meeting of the tumor board of the Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative (MCGI), The Jackson Laboratory’s bold effort to bring advanced cancer diagnostics and treatment to community hospitals across Maine has already enrolled more than 500 cancer patients for advanced testing.

“Every oncology practice in Maine has agreed to participate in the MCGI,” said Rueter, who is MCGI’s medical director. “Incorporating these technologies will enable more precise cancer diagnoses and more targeted cancer treatments.”

Rueter noted that Maine has one of the highest incidences of cancer in the country, with approximately 9,000 new cancer cases each year. Moreover, most American cancer patients receive their care at community hospitals, and this is especially true in Maine, a large state with a small population. The MCGI was designed to bring access to the latest advances in precision cancer care to all Maine physicians and their patients.

At the heart of the MCGI is a sophisticated genetic cancer test, the JAX Cancer Treatment Profile, a testing panel of 358 cancer-related genes known to be associated with various cancers. The panel assesses a patient’s genetic profile based on associations with response or resistance to FDA-approved targeted therapies or new drugs in development.

One of the largest obstacles to the wider adoption of cancer genomic testing in clinical care is the interpretation of clinical genomic test results. Accordingly, the MCGI Genomic Tumor Board provides an opportunity for clinicians to meet with experts in the field with extensive experience in using clinical genomic testing results, to review testing results and receive guidance in potential treatment options for each patient.

“The ultimate goal,” said Rueter, “is better outcomes for Maine cancer patients."