What is personalized medicine?
In recent years, the advancements in technology and science have redefined how we treat each cancer. At OHC, we tailor each patient’s treatment to their specific cancer. Our doctors look at the person’s unique genetic make-up so each patient receives the right treatment at the right dose. This is known as personalized medicine (also called precision medicine and individualized medicine).
Personalized cancer medicine studies a person’s genetic makeup and tumor growth. Genetic testing of cancer cells and normal cells helps doctors customize treatment to individual patient needs. Personalized treatments may cause fewer side effects than standard options.
How personalized medicine is different
Before personalized medicine, most people with a specific type and stage of cancer received the same treatment. But certain treatments worked better for some people than for others. Researchers then began finding genetic differences in people and their tumors more often. This explains many of the varying responses to treatment.
Now, a person may receive a standard treatment such as surgery to remove a tumor, followed by a personalized treatment plan that is based on genetic make-up of their specific tumor. This advancement has revolutionized how cancer is being treated today. These patients typically receive more effective treatment with fewer side effects.
Examples of personalized medicine
Targeted treatments. A targeted treatment targets a cancer’s specific genes and proteins that is allowing the cancer cells to grow and survive. Researchers find new targets each year. And they create and test new drugs for these targets. The option of using targeted therapy depends on whether or not the tumor has the specific target. This requires testing a tumor sample.
Cancers with targeted treatment options include:
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumor
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Some types of leukemia and lymphoma
- Some types of childhood cancers
Pharmacogenomics. Pharmacogenomics looks at how a person’s genes affect the way the body processes and responds to drugs. These changes influence how effective and safe a drug is for a person. For example, a person’s body may process a medicine more quickly than others. This means the person would require a higher dose for the drug to be effective.
Here is an example of pharmacogenomics in cancer treatment planning:
People with colorectal cancer sometimes have a specific altered gene. These people may have serious side effects when treated with the drug irinotecan (Camptosar). The altered gene makes it harder for the body to break down the drug. Doctors prescribe lower doses of the medicine for these people to reduce side effects.
The future of personalized medicine
Personalized cancer treatment is an active part of the treatment plan and it may also be part of a clinical trial. A clinical trial is a research study involving people. Through OHC’s clinical research program, we are investigating both new drugs as well as how drugs currently used for one type of cancer may be effective with a totally different type of cancer. These new drugs and new approaches are changing the landscape of how we treat cancer.
If you like to speak with someone about personalized medicine, please call OHC at 1-800-710-4674. If you are a new patient or are looking for a second opinion, we’d be happy to schedule an appointment with one of our cancer experts.