About one out of every four breast-cancer survivors risks seeing a relapse, but thanks to a new program at the Cross Cancer Institute, researchers hope to buck that trend by zoning in on a tumour’s gene.

The six-month-old program uses a high-tech, $250,000 machine supported through Weekend to End Breast Cancer funding that gives researchers the ability to identify specific drug treatments for individual patients by looking at molecular pathways of genes inside a tumour.

Combined with the Alberta Research Centre’s tumour bank that contains hundreds of tumour tissues donated by patients since 1998, researchers can use that information to find out what molecular pathways are associated with early relapse, meaning successful outcomes at beating cancer.

“There are a lot of new drugs out there targeting new pathways,” said Dr. John Mackey, a breast cancer researcher with the Cross Cancer Institute.

“We want to find the various drugs that specifically interact with a key pathway and create individualized treatment for those women.”

Some breast-cancer tumours don’t have the same responses to conventional drugs, said Mackey.

“We’ve discovered that a leukemia drug can also be a very good treatment for some cancer patients,” said Mackey.

Cancer survivor Cathy Hopcraft recently began a new drug treatment with “minimum side-effects” based on similar research, she said.

“It was a horrible thing that I had to go through plus losing my mother to this disease,” said Hopcraft. “However, this treatment truly works and I feel much better.”

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