Public gets first look at cutting-edge cancer lab

ST. GEORGE – A milestone in cancer treatment and research was marked Tuesday by a ribbon-cutting and open house to celebrate the new Precision Genomics Laboratory in St. George. Doctors, donors and patients gathered to hear the story of its creation and tour the facility.

Precision Genomics Laboratory, St. George, Utah, Oct. 13, 2015 | Photo by Leanna Bergeron, St. George News
Precision Genomics Laboratory, St. George, Utah, Oct. 13, 2015 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

“We began a journey to create a strategic plan to improve cancer services in Southern Utah and we began to recruit physicians,” said Terri Kane, vice president of Intermountain Healthcare’s Southwest Region. “We recruited the best and the brightest.”

The team of Dr. Lincoln Nadauld, Dr. Derrick Haslem, Dr. Pravin Mishra and others are changing the way serious cancers are treated by sequencing a patient’s DNA in search of genetic mutations known to cause cancer.

“There are other places in the country where sequencing is occurring, even at major cancer centers, but there is no place in the country that sequences to the level on the gene that Dixie Regional Medical Center Intermountain Healthcare does,” Kane said during the ceremony.

Kane told the crowd the lab is able to examine genes at a deeper level, allowing scientists to identify more mutations than other labs.

“That means if there’s something that is actionable that we’ll be able to find a drug and a medication and a treatment that might give a patient more opportunity and chance,” she said. “Right now, because it’s so new, the patients we are treating are stage 4 cancer patients that have lost all of their options. We’ve had incredible success.”

The lab’s services are offered virtually to patients and oncologists around the nation. Doctors have access to the lab via a web portal, said Gary Stone, administrator for the lab. “So it doesn’t matter where you are at in the United States. Everybody can have access. This isn’t just specific to St. George. We just happen to be located here but it’s a national service.”

Applying the cutting-edge science to the most serious cancer cases is a mission for Dr. Pravin Mishra, director of the lab.

We have this amazing, amazing facility here, which basically will give hope to all those patients who are struggling to find an option for their stage 4 cancer,” Mishra said. “With this laboratory, they will get … more personalized therapy targeted towards their individual genetic makeup. This is a more precise and more personalized approach to give more options to those stage 4 cancer patients.”

The open house served as a thank you to the charities and individuals who contributed to the lab and its high-tech equipment.

“We just want to thank the community, the St. George community, because they have, in their Jubilee of Trees, shown us their grace,” Mishra said.


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1 Comment

  • DRT October 14, 2015 at 8:22 am

    It is great to have such excellent medical facilities in this relatively small area, particularly when I look back to what we had in the ’80’s here. Sure there are a lot of things about growth that are irritating. But growth is going to happen no matter what, so I’m just thankful that our services and retail are growing along with the population.
    Driving to SLC or Vegas for medical or shopping was just a royal PITA.

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