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Cancer Care

Why a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Cancer Care Doesn’t Work

When I was first diagnosed with stage 3B lung cancer in 2003, I was essentially told to get my affairs in order. Despite that grim advice, I advocated for myself and found a renegade physician who was willing to help me, using the same tools that had been available to doctors for decades — chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. 

Miraculously, I am still here 16 years later, but the days of these toxic, invasive, one-size-fits-all approaches to managing cancer are quickly becoming a relic of the past.

We are now in the era of precision medicine — the concept of finding the right drug for the right person at the right time. Since Watson and Crick first solved the structure of DNA in 1953 and ushered in the age of molecular genetics, scientists have come to understand that cancer is a disease of accumulated mutations in our DNA, some of which we are born with, some of which we acquire over time. Indeed, each person’s genetic makeup is as unique as your fingerprint, and so, too, is each person’s cancer: your tumor is unique to you. No two are alike.

Unique care

Researchers have a better understanding of the molecular underpinnings of cancer than ever before. The pace of discovery is truly breathtaking. In 2018 alone, there were eight new FDA drug approvals for lung cancer. 

Compared to when I was first diagnosed, doctors now have many new tools at their disposal, including targeted therapies specific to certain mutations and immunotherapy drugs that harness the body’s own immune system to attack the cancer. These drugs are extending, improving, and even saving lives.

By knowing your tumor’s genomic profile, doctors are better equipped to find the right drug to treat your specific tumor, which is why I tell patients comprehensive genomic profiling is the single most important test to get after being diagnosed with cancer. It is essential for ensuring you get the right drug to treat your tumor’s unique characteristics.

The right choices

I get it: cancer is scary and complicated. You want to know that you (and your care team) are making the best decisions possible, which is why I always advocate for getting a second opinion so you know and understand all of your treatment options. 

Additionally, with your genomic profiling results in hand, the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer (representing a merger of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the Lung Cancer Alliance) can help you determine if you are eligible for clinical trials through its LungMATCH program. 

While we have made extraordinary progress in recent years, we still have much work to do. The healthcare community must ensure patients ask for and receive comprehensive genomic profiling, that resources are available to support additional research, that policymakers remove barriers to this research, and that insurers allow patients the access to therapies that best treat their specific disease. 

We must make personalized medicine available to all patients, regardless of their disease — getting the right drug to the right patient upon diagnosis is best for all.

Each day, personalized treatment is providing new hope to survivors like me and the millions of people living with lung cancer. These discoveries are getting us closer to our goal of increasing quality of life and survivorship among lung cancer patients, and to one day curing this disease.

To find out more about lung cancer, visit

Bonnie J. Addario, Co-Founder, Chair of the Board of Directors, GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer; Board Member, Personalized Medicine Coalition, [email protected]

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