When Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers oncologist Manojkumar Bupathi treats patients, he looks beyond a basic diagnosis.
To Dr. Bupathi, the latest physician to join Rocky Mountain Cancer Center’s cancer-fighting team, labeling a disease “pancreatic cancer” or “prostate cancer,” doesn’t tell enough of the story.
Each patient’s disease, each tumor, carries its own genetic markers, Dr Manojkumar Bupathi says. And uncovering a tumor’s unique genetic fingerprint can help oncologists create the best treatment for each patient.
Recent research advances have unlocked secrets that can reveal how those individual genetics can determine how a tumor will respond to a particular treatment. That knowledge, Dr. Bupathi says, is the driving force behind such treatment advances as immunotherapy and targeted therapy.
“With immune therapies and targeted therapies, we’re starting to understand more about the genetics of cancer,” Dr. Bupathi says. ”I’ve always been interested in the genetics behind cancer, how we can use that to treat patients and understand and predict who will respond to a particular treatment and why,” he says.
A Background in Bioinformatics
Oncologist Manojkumar Bupathi comes to Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers (RMCC) from The Ohio State University, where he completed an advanced fellowship in gastrointestinal cancer. He also completed a research fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and an investigational cancer therapeutics fellowship, at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
In addition to his medical degree, Dr. Bupathi also holds a degree in the field of bioinformatics.
For Dr. Bupathi, that field is a natural extension of his interest in cancer genetics. Informatics is trying to use information with the aid of technology to improve individual health, public health or biomedical research. In cancer, it is often translational bioinformatics that are used, including research on the development of novel techniques for integrating biological and clinical information to identify prognostic or predictive biomarkers. These biomarkers assist in diagnosis and prognosis, as well as monitoring response to therapy
For example, he says, analyzing pancreatic cancer tumors reveals which tumors have certain gene mutations. If all patients with early stage pancreatic cancers receive the same treatment and some respond to treatment and some don’t, informatics allows scientists to determine whether the presence of certain genetic mutations influences response to specific treatments.
As bioinformatics helps expand the canon of knowledge about how types of cancer and individual tumors behave, cancer treatment, Dr. Bupathi says, is “becoming more personalized medicine.”
As part of his training, Dr. Bupathi investigated how the interaction and malfunction of proteins and genes can result in tumors.