Windsor on cutting edge of cancer treatment research

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

CBC News

Identifying specific types of cancer allows for more targeted, less harmful treatments

A Windsor biomedical company is rolling out cutting-edge cancer-fighting technology that uses DNA sequencing to precisely identify and combat the disease in individual patients.

Leading the research is Dr. Raj Atikukke, the founder of ITOS Oncology, who uses molecular diagnostic technology to study cancer biopsies looking for DNA mutations.

Those mutations in a person's genetic road map tell Atikukke the specific form of cancer he's looking at, which then allows for a more precise, less harmful treatment.

"You don't have to use a cocktail of different chemotherapy, you can use one targeted drug in a patient," Atikukke said during a presentation of his work Wednesday morning.

The million-dollar Next Generation Sequencing, which finds its home at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, is the only technology of its kind in southwestern Ontario, according to hospital officials.

There is similar, but less advanced equipment being used in London, said Atikukke, who works with a couple of students to provide the commercial testing. 

His tests are not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, which means each test costs about $1,000. His research is funded by grants, but patients pay for the service. 

Atikukke can process 30 samples in about two days. He says his work can also identify if someone is susceptible to cancer, which means they can be proactive in protecting themselves. 

"It's always about staying one step ahead of this game of cancer," he said.