Following recent discoveries about the molecular activities of cancerous cells, some physicians are embracing a new way of treating cancer patients called personalized medicine.
Lincoln Nadauld, M.D., Ph.D.
CEO, Culmination Bio
Lincoln Nadauld, M.D., Ph.D., is a practicing oncologist and CEO of Culmination Bio, a healthcare data and discovery company.
During the last two decades, technological advancements have delivered groundbreaking new insights into the molecular activities of cancerous cells. Most significantly, we have learned that every person’s cancer — like every person — is biologically unique.
Guided by these discoveries, some physicians have begun to embrace a new way of treating cancer patients called personalized medicine.
Also referred to as precision medicine, personalized medicine focuses on understanding and influencing the unique set of cancer-related molecular interactions occurring within each patient’s body. The goal is to address the root causes of each patient’s disease and develop treatment plans that are tailored to each individual.
Targeted therapies, cell-based immunotherapies, and early detection tests are playing leading roles in advancing the frontiers of personalized medicine for cancer patients.
Targeted therapies disrupt the activity of mutated proteins that promote cancer growth.
Cancer occurs when genes mutate inside otherwise healthy cells. The mutations cause cancerous cells to produce dysfunctional proteins, called oncoproteins, that prompt uncontrolled cellular reproduction. The rapidly spreading cancerous cells crowd out healthy ones, disrupting the body’s ability to function normally.
Oncologists can use genetic tests to identify the unique set of oncoproteins fueling the growth of each patient’s cancer. Targeted therapies disrupt specific oncoproteins.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved targeted therapies for more than 30 types of genetically defined cancers, including certain forms of breast, lung, and colon cancers.
Cell-based immunotherapies teach the immune system to recognize and destroy cancerous blood cells. To administer the therapies, scientists extract and genetically modify a patient’s immune cells to attack cells that exhibit cancer-associated proteins.
Cell-based immunotherapies are believed to have cured some leukemia patients. The FDA has also approved cell-based immunotherapies for the treatment of some lymphomas and multiple myelomas.
Early cancer detection testing
Advanced early detection tests for cancer can spot disease-associated genetic material and proteins circulating in the bloodstreams of seemingly healthy people. Such testing promises to deliver unprecedented benefits to patients and health systems by finding cancers at earlier stages, when they may be easier and less expensive to treat.
Health systems across the world are studying the long-term effects that broad-based early detection testing may have on healthcare costs and patient outcomes. Some providers have become early adopters.
The impact of personalized medicine for cancer patients
Targeted therapies, cell-based immunotherapies, and early detection tests are hallmarks of a new era of personalized medicine in cancer care. By providing physicians with new opportunities to alleviate the root causes of cancer and detect cancers at earlier stages in their development, personalized medicine can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of cancer care.