A piano player gives up his job, goes to medical school and now has and R and D project with clinical trials for brain cancer.  He also works with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Allen Brain Institute who has healthy brain statistical information compiled for comparison.

The research involves sorting out genetic and molecular blueprints of individual tumors.  For the study he working with Accium's 15-ton particle accelerator to analyze tumor tissue and does it free for all his patients.  By profiling the tumors, treatment plans have the potential of hitting their marks with medications, better than guessing at perhaps which one would be best suited.  Another area of focus is try and find out why tumors grow back as well. 

“Foltz's average day starts with predawn piano practice, then moves on to several surgeries, hours in the lab and phone conversations with patients - all of whom get his cell number.

Nice that he keeps in touch personally too with each patient having a cell phone number to contact him as well, definitely keeping the personal touch a live and well, which we all complain today is missing so much. 

At present they are mining data from over 300 frozen tumors.  11 years after diagnosis, many patients are still very much alive and well and healthy.  With the genomic information on a patient’s tumor they can somewhat predict or watch to see how aggressive the cancer will be and what line of chemotherapy would be the best.  BD 

Long neglected by researchers and drug companies, brain cancer now is being targeted in clinical trials of nearly 15 new medications. Genetic technology is enabling personalized treatment on a level never before possible. And though the disease remains the most malignant form of cancer, some doctors say it's time to stop treating it like a death sentence. Seattle, which has no nationally recognized brain-cancer program, seems an unlikely place for those trends to converge. But a pianist-turned-neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center is on a mission to boost the city's standing by tapping into the science for which Seattle is renowned.

Foltz was playing piano for the St. Louis opera and headed for The Juilliard School 14 years ago when a friend's daughter died of brain cancer. Stunned to learn how little could be done for patients at that time, he gave up music for medical school.

Foltz and his colleagues genetically map each tumor they remove or biopsy, examining 30,000 genes to determine which are switched off or on. The pattern can reveal genetic glitches responsible for a specific cancer's runaway growth. Such mapping is done at major brain-cancer centers for select patients such as Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., recently diagnosed with brain cancer.

Mapping brain cancer to find best treatment


  1. Personalized medicine aims to minimize that one-size-fits-all approach by matching each patient to a specific treatment based on the genetic and molecular characteristics of that person's tumor. Doctors can use genetic information gleaned from the tumor itself to choose -- or avoid -- certain medications for that patient or, as in Carlberg's case, create a treatment specifically for that person.
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