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Local doctor on a mission to find a more effective way to treat cancer

Health & Fitness

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Dr. Dane Dickson, left, at Teton Cancer Institute in Rexburg is on a mission to find a more effective way to treat cancer, right. | Courtesy photos

REXBURG — One of the leading causes of death in the United States is cancer and one local doctor is on a mission to find a more effective way to treat it.

Teton Cancer Institute is one of five clinics across the nation participating in a clinical trial to help make cancer treatments more personalized for patients.

“I’m tired of telling people they will die of cancer,” Dr. Dane Dickson says. “We have come a long way and there have been astounding advances led by physicians, researchers, drug manufacturers, technology companies, laboratories and so many others who are working on different angles to find a cure. Yet, despite all our advances, over 609,000 people will die of cancer this year in the U.S. alone.”

Dickson is one of the founding physicians at the Teton Cancer Institute who began treating patients more than 20 years ago. One of the latest treatment innovations is immunotherapy, a treatment that changes the body’s immune response to fighting disease by enhancing or suppressing the immune system.

But even with all the advances, Dickson says research is still one of the biggest obstacles in treating cancer. He compares the current state of cancer research to painting a mural.

“Right now, the way we do research is by having one group paint a part of the mural, while another group paints a different section,” Dickson says in a news release.

The purpose of the clinical trial is to bring all the data and research together into a national database “so we can work together to develop meaningful treatments that can save people’s lives.”

“This trial collects information that allows researchers to see a broad outline of all the parts of the mural,” Dickson says. “With every patient who comes in the office, we want to be able to diagnose them precisely. We need to go through and look at not only where did the tumor start, but what makes it tick.”

An overview of the trial was published in a well-known scientific journal earlier this month. All the prep work is now getting underway for the trial to begin. The next step is enrolling patients. Dickson anticipates seeing the first patients in June.

The trial is expected to continue for many years in hopes of advancing research so universities and pharmaceutical companies can discover ways to rid the world of this deadly disease.

Dickson feels confident they will find a cure for many types of cancer but isn’t sure there will ever be one treatment that will cure it all.

“We are always hoping for that one magic bullet that’s going to work on every tumor, and so far we’re not seeing things like that. We’re seeing things that boost the immune system. That’s been an amazing advance,” he says. “It’s going to take a lot of effort working on each individual tumor to find the best way to treat everyone’s tumor.”

Five clinics nationwide are participating in the trial, including The University at San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Utah Cancer Specialists in Salt Lake City. Dickson says more participants are needed, and he’s calling on doctors and clinics to join him in the cause.

If you’re interested in learning more, visit the website.