A new partnership between cancer centres in the US states of North Carolina and Florida could lead to clinical trials of individualised treatments for a wide range of cancers.

The Blumenthal Cancer Center at Carolinas Medical Center (CMC) in Charlotte is teaming up with the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida for a study that involves collecting tissue samples from more than 2,300 cancer patients over the next five years.

The study, Total Cancer Care, springs from the recognition that there are more than 200 different types of cancer, irrespective of where they first appear in the body. This goes beyond the traditional categorisation of cancers by origin (e.g., breast, prostate, lung).

Each cancer type has a specific molecular fingerprint comprised of some 30,000 genes that could influence how the cancer responds to different forms of treatment, the centres point out. “By developing a database of tissue samples from many cancer types, it may be possible to design individualised therapies that target the specific cancer, avoiding treatments that have little or no effect,” they say.

Enrolment in the study, which will also track patients’ medical histories and clinical records, is entirely voluntary. If patients at CMC have cancer surgery, they will be asked to donate excess cancer tissues that would otherwise be discarded. If a biopsy is taken, the researchers hope to obtain three to six additional samples for study.

Volunteers may also be asked questions on a yearly basis about their medical history, diet and how they are feeling. If a new drug is then developed that addresses their specific form of cancer, patients will be notified by the researchers to see if they would be willing to take part in a clinical trial.

“Our vision is to integrate new technologies into the standard of care and improve outcomes of all cancer patients by partnering with outstanding healthcare institutions,” said Dr William Dalton, president, chief executive officer and director of the Moffitt Cancer Center.

The Moffitt Total Cancer Care programme combines information technology, science and clinical treatment in a broad-based effort to develop evidence-based guidelines that will improve care and outcomes for cancer patients throughout the state of Florida and beyond. CMC is the first hospital system outside Moffitt’s home state to participate in the genetic profiling study.