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Personalized Cancer Medicine

Posted 7/17/2015

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  Personalized cancer medicine has become a current buzz word in Cancer World. On the one hand, if you think about it, we have always had personalized medicine. If you sit in a room with four or five other people with the same diagnosis as your own, you quickly realize that each person's experience was a little different from anyone else's. Cancer treatment has never been "one size fits all", but that is increasingly the case.

  This is mostly related to the development of targeted therapies. The more we understand about basic genetics and the DNA of a particular cancer cell, the more drugs have been produced to try to target a very specific gene or protein or even the host environment. Some of these have been more successful than others (think herceptin for a big winner), but they all share the good attribute of having many fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy. We will all be hearing more about this science and, hopefully, decades from now (and, yes, it will take that long), cancer treatment will be more individualized, effective, and physically easier to bear.

  From Cancer Net comes this excellent review:

What is Personalized Cancer Medicine?
Personalized medicine can be used to learn about a person's genetic makeup and to unravel the biology of their tumor. Using this information, doctors hope to identify prevention, screening, and treatment strategies that may be more effective and cause fewer side effects than would be expected with standard treatments. By performing more genetic tests and analysis, doctors may customize treatment to each patient's needs.
Creating a personalized cancer screening and treatment plan includes:
Determining the chances that a person will develop cancer and selecting screening strategies to lower the risk

Predicting the risk of recurrence (return of cancer)
How personalized medicine is different
Before personalized medicine, most patients with a specific type and stage of cancer received the same treatment. However, it became clear to doctors and patients that some treatments worked well for some patients and not as well for others. With the growth in the knowledge of genetics, researchers found that the genetic differences in people and their tumors explained many of these different responses to treatment. Although a person with cancer now may receive a standard treatment plan (such as surgery to remove a tumor), the doctor may also be able to recommend some type of personalized cancer treatment. Personalized cancer treatments may be offered as an active part of the treatment plan or as part of a clinical trial (research studies in people).

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