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Q-Wave Acquisition: The need for leading-edge medical equipment to develop custom diagnostic protocols for cancer patients

In recent years, the battle against cancer has made us realize how important it is to find the reasons why certain therapies prove effective for some, but of little or no help at all to others. It has become increasingly clear that certain patient characteristics make some therapies less effective or result in greater toxicity or side effects. Some genes are polymorphic or variable which explain the presence, to a greater or lesser extent, of certain enzymes or molecules. As a result of these variations, therapy, whether chemotherapy or radiotherapy, may cause a range of side effects.

Our current knowledge already allows us to adjust the doses of certain chemotherapy agents to take individual variations into consideration or even choose a different therapy. Unfortunately, we cannot act on this knowledge because we don’t have the necessary advanced equipment. Tumours are extremely heterogeneous. A stomach cancer diagnosis, for example, doesn’t mean we know all the characteristics of each tumour. Indeed, why do some tumours shrink in some patients following a certain type of treatment, while other patients don’t obtain the same results? It has been increasingly documented that gene deregulation varies from one tumour to another, even if the tumours are similar in origin.

Using currently available scientific data, the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) and, more specifically, the Molecular Biology Laboratory of its Haematology Department, now has the capability to develop a protocol that calls for tests in order to select the most suitable treatment for each patient. The first step in this treatment involves acquiring high-performance equipment that can quickly detect gene variations.

Current methods are cumbersome and do not produce results that allow us to administer a therapy within a clinically and medically reasonable time-frame. While not perfect, the new technology makes it possible to much more quickly detect specific polymorphisms or mutations in various genes. This high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) equipment is known as a Q-Wave.

Above and beyond its day-to-day clinical use, the Q-Wave is an outstanding research tool which paves the way for exploring new paths that can lead to the consideration and even the testing of new therapeutic options. This advanced equipment could be used for testing certain genes that may become deregulated in some types of tumours. Some of these gene characteristics may therefore steer us towards chemotherapy agents which are rarely used for such pathologies. This is especially true for rare tumours which are often found in young patients. Since these tumours are too rare to benefit from major research, we must therefore consider other venues for developing new ways to study genes using existing chemotherapy agents, but whose effect on the type of tumour is presently unknown.

Cancer is a general term that is incorrectly used to describe myriad diseases which are completely different from one another. The Q-Wave that will soon be purchased by the CHUM is aimed at casting aside this notion of cancer and adopting a new one: each cancer is as unique as each patient. To ensure the treatment adopted is suitable to the patient, we must be able to better understand the disease than is currently possible using our present equipment. While costly, the Q-Wave would mean an immediate breakthrough for some patients and advance research into solutions that focus on finding a customized treatment for each patient.