Why Doesn’t Rational Therapeutics do Gene Mutation Analyses?

Many patients inquire why we as a laboratory have not focused upon genomic analyses as part of the services we offer. There are several reasons why we have not focused on genomics. The first reason is that there are many laboratories that already commercially offer these analyses. These gene array methods can be automated and conducted comparatively cheaply. As we work hand-in-hand with many of the commercial purveyors of these techniques, we have seen little advantage in reproducing these methodologies in our facilities.

The second and more important reason that we have not pursued genomics reflects our belief that cancer is more complex than its gene signature. This point is critical to an understanding of what functional analyses are. We know that contained within the genes of each human is the information to create every protein, every enzyme, every lipid, every carbohydrate and all the organs and systems dependant upon their function. What we don’t know is how all of those 25,000+ genes are regulated to produce the unique features that constitute us as human entities.

From the moment of conception, when the male and female genetic materials are fused into what is known as a zygote, our informatics are established. What enables that single cell to become the multi-trillion-cell organism that we recognize as human is not the gene, but the gene regulation.

The informatics are static — the regulation, highly fluid.

Simply exploring the information contained within the human cell provides you with a blueprint of what may be, but no clear evidence that the outline structure will ever come to be in all of its functional complexity. In this regard, genomic analyses cannot approximate the vagaries and manifold variations that define us as individuals.

To look at this a different way, we can describe genetic information as “permissive, ” that is it tells you what you may or may not become. Functional information is “predictive,” it tells you exactly what you are. We have moved away from genomic analyses for the very reason that they provide only a veneer of information. The substance of cancer, its responsiveness to therapeutics and its ultimate cure, require a more definitive analysis. By studying human cellular behavior within the context of vascular, stromal and inflammatory elements, the EVA-PCD platform provides the closest approximation of human biology possible short of a clinical trial.

Human beings are demonstrably more than the sum of their genes. Cancer biology and the study of cancer therapy are many things, but simple is not one of them. Complex problems require solutions that incorporate all of their complexities, however uncomfortable this may be for genomic investigators.

About Dr. Robert A. Nagourney
Dr. Nagourney received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Boston University and his doctor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, where he was a University Scholar. After a residency in internal medicine at the University of California, Irvine, he went on to complete fellowship training in medical oncology at Georgetown University, as well as in hematology at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla. During his fellowship at Georgetown University, Dr. Nagourney confronted aggressive malignancies for which the standard therapies remained mostly ineffective. No matter what he did, all of his patients died. While he found this “standard of care” to be unacceptable, it inspired him to return to the laboratory where he eventually developed “personalized cancer therapy.” In 1986, Dr. Nagourney, along with colleague Larry Weisenthal, MD, PhD, received a Phase I grant from a federally funded program and launched Oncotech, Inc. They began conducting experiments to prove that human tumors resistant to chemotherapeutics could be re-sensitized by pre-incubation with calcium channel blockers, glutathione depletors and protein kinase C inhibitors. The original research was a success. Oncotech grew with financial backing from investors who ultimately changed the direction of the company’s research. The changes proved untenable to Dr. Nagourney and in 1991, he left the company he co-founded. He then returned to the laboratory, and developed the Ex-vivo Analysis - Programmed Cell Death ® (EVA-PCD) test to identify the treatments that would induce programmed cell death, or “apoptosis.” He soon took a position as Director of Experimental Therapeutics at the Cancer Institute of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. His primary research project during this time was chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He remained in this position until the basic research program funding was cut, at which time he founded Rational Therapeutics in 1995. It is here where the EVA-PCD test is used to identity the drug, combinations of drugs or targeted therapies that will kill a patient's tumor - thus providing patients with truly personalized cancer treatment plans. With the desire to change how cancer care is delivered, he became Medical Director of the Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial in 2003. In 2008, he returned to Rational Therapeutics full time to rededicate his time and expertise to expand the research opportunities available through the laboratory. He is a frequently invited lecturer for numerous professional organizations and universities, and has served as a reviewer and on the editorial boards of several journals including Clinical Cancer Research, British Journal of Cancer, Gynecologic Oncology, Cancer Research and the Journal of Medicinal Food.

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