As recently as ten years ago, a cancer “diagnosis” simply meant a pathologist looking through a microscope, identifying the specific cell type and level of aggression (Grade) and this information helped the oncologist put together a treatment plan. Even today, this forms the basis for a general standard of practice treatment plan and various CT, PET, Ultrasound and MRI scans help determine who will benefit most from surgery, chemo, radiation, and other options. The problem is that while cancers can be pathologically grouped (e.g. ovarian, colon, breast), we now know that each cancer, even within the same group or type, can be VERY different at the molecular level. This helps explain why some patients do so much better than others with the exact same treatment for the same cancer type.
With the advent of “biological” targeted therapies over the past ten years we now have a rapidly accelerating list of anti-cancer therapies. While this is still a very early work in progress, it is kicking up the concept of “diagnosis” many notches. So, compared to mostly mundane “advances” in the “war on cancer” over the past 50 years we stand on the threshold of making major advances because we are able to drill down to how a cancer functions on the molecular and genetic level. The resulting potential treatment options, while still limited at this time, will be staggering in the near future and highly individualized. For the moment these assays can help determine which chemo agent or available biological agent is most likely to work. Currently these are most applicable for gynecologic cancer recurrence, but in the near future will be a standard up front as they are becoming in other cancer cell types.
Personalized medicine, using evolving technologies which pinpoint best treatment in individuals, is basically here. While not perfected by any means, it is the evolving future. There are now ways to better tailor treatment for individuals at every point in their anti-cancer journey. The video below showcases one of the companies which is on the cutting edge of clinical applications when is comes to exploiting identified molecular pathways in a particular cancer. They continue to report very impressive data at ASCO meetings and elsewhere.
Another leading edge company which provides assays that overlap in some ways and provide different information in other ways is Foundation One . They focus on treatable genomic alterations and provide an interpretive report from your tumor tissue assay. These treatable foci will grow very rapidly over the near future. Watch the following video for more….