Newswise — SIOUX FALLS, S.D.Sanford Health is working to enroll approximately 50 adult patients whose cancer has progressed after the first line of treatment or who have rare cancers without standard treatment options in a clinical trial to look for genetic information that could help customize treatment options. The Genetic Exploration of the Molecular Basis of Malignancy in Adults (GEMMA) began in the middle of May.

Enrollees are consenting adult patients with advanced cancers whose disease has progressed on at least one line of therapy or who have a rare cancer with no standard treatment. DNA will be extracted from tumor samples and tested to identify targets for treatment.

“DNA contains genetic information that acts as a blue print for how our bodies are made and work,” said Steven Powell, M.D., a Sioux Falls oncologist and clinical researcher. “A single change in the sequence of DNA can lead to cancer, and while we know some the genetic changes that can cause disease, we have much more to discover. We are learning that some of these changes can be targeted with new therapies. This could change the face of cancer care.”

Patients enrolled in GEMMA are screened over a period of up to two weeks to determine if they fit the study criteria. Upon enrollment, tissues are analyzed, and the patient’s case is reviewed by their physician and the Sanford Genomic Tumor Board, a panel of experts in cancer care and genetics, to determine the best course of treatment.

Next-generation sequencing technology will be used to analyze the tumor samples and provide real-time clinical information for each patient’s care team.

Throughout the study, patients will regularly meet a research coordinator for progress updates. Following treatment, patients will be monitored for two years.

“GEMMA patients receive treatment in line with the best in the world,” said Anu Gaba, M.D., a hematologist and oncologist based in Fargo. "The experts tasked with studying a patient’s tumor provide a diverse prospective and allow for a personalized treatment regimen that will consider each person’s unique genomic composition.”

This study is the beginning of a focused effort to provide patients access to novel personalized therapies. To complement the GEMMA study, Sanford will open several additional clinical trials that utilize novel therapies that treat genetic targets found on the GEMMA study.

About Sanford HealthSanford Health is an integrated health system headquartered in the Dakotas and is now the largest, rural, not-for-profit health care system in the nation with locations in 126 communities in nine states. In addition, Sanford Health is in the process of developing international clinics in Ghana, Israel, Mexico and China.

Sanford Health includes 39 hospitals, 140 clinic locations and 1,360 physicians in 81 specialty areas of medicine. With more than 26,000 employees, Sanford Health is the largest employer in North Dakota and South Dakota. The system is experiencing dynamic growth and development in conjunction with nearly a $1 billion in gifts from philanthropist Denny Sanford. These gifts are making possible the implementation of several initiatives, including global children's clinics, multiple research centers and finding cures for type 1 diabetes and breast cancer. For more information, visit