Cutting-edge tumor tests reveal new cancer treatment options

Posted: May 17, 2019 | Word Count: 571

In the fall of 2017, Elissa Reynolds was shocked by a stage four colorectal cancer diagnosis at 35 years old. Almost two years later, she has hope for the future thanks to innovative tests on her living tumor tissue, which revealed personalized treatment options for her specific cancer.

“After my diagnosis, I was determined to do whatever it took to beat cancer, so I began researching all of the treatment options I could,” she said. “Meeting my oncologist, Dr. Christina Saurel, and surgeon, Dr. Ken Dixon, gave me a whole new perspective on the level of innovative care I could receive locally.”

While Reynolds and her health care team initially started a traditional chemotherapy course, due to the advanced nature of her cancer, they also considered other treatment methods.

“Because Elissa presented with an advanced colon cancer that had spread to her liver, we were uncertain of her care and had to think outside the box,” Saurel said. “Although one of her tumors responded to chemotherapy and shrank to the point Dr. Dixon could remove it, the other tumor did not, which meant we had to get creative.”

A new option for personalized treatment

Reynolds had other options to consider because Dixon preserved her living tumor tissue and shipped it to a state-of-the-art laboratory, where specialists tested the cells with more than 130 drugs to see what potential future treatments would be most effective.

No two cancers are the same, and Dixon knew that her living tumor sample could offer information on how to treat her unique cancer that a traditional tissue sample could not. He feels so strongly about this matter that he founded SpeciCare, an organization dedicated to helping patients across the country preserve their living tumor tissue for their own benefit.

“Under current practice guidelines, cancer tissue dies when it is removed, which limits the information it can provide,” Dixon said. “However, if a tumor is preserved alive and tested, it has the power to unlock the secret to personalized care. SpeciCare links research, clinical care and precision medicine, so patients have the greatest chance at survival.”

Looking toward the future

The tests on Reynolds’ living tumor tissue found 20 new treatment options for her care team to consider that likely would have remained unknown if Dixon had not preserved her tumor. In fact, none of the new therapy options revealed through the tests are commonly used for metastatic colorectal cancer; traditionally, they are prescribed for other cancers, such as leukemia and breast cancer.

“Cancer is very tricky — you can’t always predict how a person’s unique cancer will react to a drug based on its location,” said Dixon.

For Reynolds, it doesn't matter how the drugs are normally used; her only concern is whether they kill her tumor cells. Now, because of the new treatment options available to her, Reynolds knows that if her cancer stops responding to one drug, there are other therapies she can try. Also, her living tumor tissue tests helped identify two clinical trials she can pursue.

“Without SpeciCare, there would be no more options for me; I’d be living with the tumor. Now this is giving me hope of shrinking it and having it removed,” Reynolds said. “This has opened up so many more options for treatment. It’s been a crazy journey, but it’s also been pretty miraculous.”

To learn more, visit or call 833-242-2873.

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