Genomic Tumor Assessment: More Accurate, Efficient, Specific Treatments
The evolution of cancer care
For more than 100 years, scientists have been searching for better ways to treat cancer. The development of radiation therapy in the early 1900s and chemotherapy in the 1940s were two milestones. But both had significant drawbacks.
Early chemotherapy drugs lacked the selective capacity to distinguish between cancer cells and normal cells, resulting in toxic and sometimes intolerable side effects for patients. Radiation therapy initially was shown to cause cancer in addition to treating it.
Both therapies have become more targeted thanks to advances in medicine, and researchers have found ways to minimize side effects. Today, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are considered the standard of care in treating cancer patients and millions of survivors have lived longer as a result.
But these therapies still have limitations. For example, two patients displaying symptoms and imaging results associated with a certain cancer might be prescribed the same chemotherapy regimen and experience drastically different outcomes. Why? Because the root cause of their disease and the treatment needed are different.
Researchers have been studying the root cause of disease since the Human Genome Project, completed a decade ago, opened up a whole new world of inquiry. After 13 years, researchers mapped the entire human genetic code. They found that every human is comprised of about 20,500 genes. Using this information, researchers have linked dozens of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and inherited colon cancer to specific genes.
In the case of cancer, researchers have discovered that two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, are associated withbreast and ovarian cancers. Likewise, researchers have developed a drug specifically to treat breast cancers showing an overproduction of the protein HER2.
Those innovations, now standard, target genetic abnormalities inherited through a family line. In recent years, researchers have been looking at genetic mutations that have nothing to do with heredity. They have zeroed in on genomic abnormalities that occur within the disease itself. Genomic testing for cancer, in particular, looks at an individual patient’s tumor to match genetic abnormalities to a drug therapy.
Bringing Precision Medicine to You
Every cancer is different. Genomic testing helps our doctors understand a patient’s cancer at the molecular level. Information about genomic changes that are unique to your individual cancer will help us determine treatments most likely to work for you. It’s the promise of precision cancer treatment — a focus on the individual tumor in the individual patient.