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Indo-Canadian Boy Featured In “Cracking Cancer” Documentary

Newton resident Sagar Dutt, 12, is featured in a new “Cracking Cancer” documentary, which aired on CBC on Thursday.

SURREY — A 12-year-old Indo-Canadian boy is featured in a new “Cracking Cancer” documentary , which aired this week on CBC Television

Sagar Dutt, who lives in Newton, is among seven Metro Vancouver residents featured in the documentary in which the producers were given rare and exclusive access to patients involved in an experimental clinical trial at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver. The trial, known as Personalized OncoGenomics, or POG, holds the promise of personalized cancer diagnosis and treatment, reported the Now Newspaper.

It’s complicated stuff, involving DNA comparisons and analysis of genetic mutations that cause cancers.

Sagar lives with the pain of neurofibromatosis – not cancer, but cancer-like, because the hereditary disease is tumour-based.

POG tests showed that blood-pressure medication might help ease Sagar’s pain by reducing the size of the tumours in his left leg and hip area.

“He always complains about the pain, and he’s growing, so we worry that the tumour is growing with him,” said his mom, Ranita.

“They experimented with the blood-pressure medication,” added his dad, Ravin, “because it has worked before in some people, so they tried with him. It doesn’t shrink it but it doesn’t make it worse, the size of the tumour.”

Ranita also lives with the pain of neurofibromatosis, with which she was diagnosed at age 30, before Sagar was born.

“Sometimes the pain comes all of a sudden, a sharp pain, like someone is poking you with a pin, or it’s numbness in your hand or leg,” she explained.

Both mom and son have had multiple surgeries to deal with the disorder.

The documentary, 18 months in the making, shows that cancer treatment can involve diabetes and heart medications rather than harsh chemotherapy options.

POG trials have been so successful that doctors have begun to experiment with similar treatment for patients with non-cancer diseases, including Sagar.

Here’s how it works: The trial compares patients’ normal DNA and RNA – each cell’s complete set of instructions – with that of their tumours, to find the genetic mutations causing their specific cancer. That means sequencing a patient’s whole genome, including roughly 20,000 genes. Researchers sift through mountains of data for the point, or points, where things went haywire.

“We’re trying to find what’s driving that cancer,” said Dr. Janessa Laskin, co-founder of the trial. “And then, can we identify a drug that will block the cancer driver in each patient?”

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