START Cancer Center has ties to brea­kthrough cancer research

Center the only one in SA to provide genetic cancer testing


SAN ANTONIO - The START Center for Cancer Care is the only facility in San Antonio that provides genetic cancer testing which is part of new breakthrough research in breast cancer treatment.

The findings of the new research published in the journal Nature identified four genetically distinct types of breast cancer. The results are expected to result in more individualized treatment based on a cancer patient’s genes.

“This allows us to choose ‘drug A’ for one patient because they have a ‘type A’ mutation, and ‘drug B’ for someone else because they have a ‘B type’ mutation,” says Dr. Amy Lang, a breast cancer oncologist at the START Center.

Three of the five tests used in the new research are already being used at the Oncopath Lab in the START Center. Those tests are conducted at the request of doctors not just in San Antonio but across the country.

The genetic testing is usually done for patients with more advanced cancers and tests the genes found in the tumor.

It allows oncologists to prescribe a treatment that targets the “bad cells” that are causing the cancer, rather than all of the body’s cells, like chemotherapy does.

While the technology is available that allows doctors to tailor treatments to patients, the treatments themselves are not as widespread.

“There’s a long way to go,” said Shelly Gunn, PhD., who works in the Oncopath Lab. “I think we're more specific in our ability to provide genomes of the tumor than drugs for it yet."

The research is so promising, says Dr. Lang, because it confirms what has long been suspected: that no two cancer patients are identical, and their treatments shouldn’t be either.


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