Local woman says 'game-changing' cancer treatment helped her beat the odds

SAN DIEGO - It is being a called a potential game changer in cancer treatment. A local woman is sharing her story after beating the odds, thanks to a treatment that is being called the ultimate in personalized medicine.

In 2011, Heather Clark was confronted with a diagnosis that left her drowning in uncertainty: an aggressive breast cancer had spread to both breasts and lymph nodes, likely the same cancer that had killed her aunt.

Clark knew her prognosis was grim.

"I don't know of many things in my life that I've experienced that have been scarier," said Clark, 31.

Fear turned to hope at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, where she was enrolled in a national iSPY clinical trial with a unique approach.

Gene testing techniques detailed a genetic blueprint of her cancer and the specific mutations driving her disease.

Using that blueprint, doctors prescribed an experimental drug to attack that specific mutation to go along with chemotherapy and surgeries.

Within 10 months, her cancer was gone. Two years later, her cancer remains in remission.

"I feel incredibly grateful and lucky," said Clark. "I am absolutely in awe of the research."

Clark's case will be featured at a Moores Cancer Center symposium this week, bringing together academia, pharmaceutical companies and venture capitalists.

"It's definitely groundbreaking," said Ida Deichaite, the director of industry relations for the Moores Cancer Center.

Symposium organizers say breaking cancer down to its mutations will save lives.

"Each person gets therapy that's specifically matched to their genetic profile," said Deichaite.

Clark added, "Makes me so hopeful for the future that other women that have these genetic mutations are going to have options and live full, healthy lives."

Experts predict the genetic testing could also lead to faster drug approvals because future trials can be targeted to patients that have a specific cancer mutation, leading to better success.

For more information on the clinical trial and symposium, visit these links:

http://www.ispy2.org/

http://moores.ucsd.edu/industryrelations/symposium.html

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