For some of his leukemia patients, Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa sends off a snippet of their D.N.A. for testing to help him deduce the best possible treatment.
Certain gene mutations might signal the need for chemotherapy, chemotherapy followed by a transplant or experimental drugs.
While the DNA test is very expensive, such “personalized” care is poised to take off — and along with it the number of niche cancer drugs.
“What we are going to see is a remarkable array of these things come along,” says Dr. Issa, an oncologist at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “In five to ten years doctors will be able to send a patient’s DNA for analysis and have a menu of 50 to 100 different medicines to choose from. I don’t think this is science fiction.”