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Hope, But...

While sequencing of cancer patients' tumors to tailor treatment to mutations found within sounds promising, NPR reports that it doesn't always live up to expectations.

NPR recounts the story of Ben Stern, who was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2016. He underwent surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, and joined a clinical trial of a checkpoint inhibitor. These treatment approaches, though, didn't work, NPR says, and Stern had to return for more surgery. But his tumor grew back, and was bigger, within five weeks.

At that point, a sample of Stern's tumor was sent out for genetic analysis, according to NPR. That uncovered an overactive gene that's not often implicated in brain cancer, and Stern was put on a treatment targeting that gene. His tumor shrank and couldn't be seen on a scan, Stern's wife Tara tells NPR. But, again, the tumor came back.

"Unfortunately in many cases these responses, if they occur, are relatively brief," Johns Hopkins' Josh Lauring adds. He tells NPR that clinicians and researchers are still teasing out why personalized treatments are effective in some situations but not others.

NPR adds that Stern is now undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.