Role of molecular tumor profiling in cancer diagnosis and treatment
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and 1 in 3 people develop cancer once in their lifetime. The global cancer incidence has risen to 18 million in 2018, with the number of people who have died because of cancer in the same year being close to 9.5 million. Unfortunately, these numbers are rising rapidly and are estimated to go higher as the years go by. Multiple factors contribute to rising cancer incidence rates. Such factors are heredity, ageing, exposure to chemicals, as well as other lifestyle and dietary habits like lack of physical activity, high body mass, excessive tobacco and alcohol use.
There has been a dramatic acceleration in the pace of biological research in recent years due to rapid technological and scientific advancements. Combined with the completion of the Human Genome Project, this has enabled the collection and analysis of information that greatly contributed to the understanding of genetic factors and their effect on human life. Identifying the specific genetic alterations that are associated with the development of certain diseases like cancer is crucial in the pursuit of an effective treatment. To find the most effective solution for any disease, a clear understanding of what exactly is responsible for its development is needed. The one-size-fits-all approach adopted in previous years for treating cancer has proved to be ineffective – as there can be no standard treatment for a disease characterized by diversity.
Every person is different, with unique genome variations, traits and characteristics and such is the case with cancer. Every tumor consists of unique genetic mutations that contribute to cancer growth. The same cancer type can be caused by different genetic alterations; subsequently, a tailored approach should be adopted to treat each cancer based on its distinct molecular characteristics. Molecular tumor profiling, a highly technical laboratory genetic test can identify the specific genetic alterations implicated in cancer growth and thus identify treatments that target these specific mutations. “Precision medicine” is the new frontier in cancer patient care. It is a term often used to describe the ability to tailor treatments to an individual patient’s tumor, based on the unique characteristics of their disease, for selecting the optimal treatment.
The information obtained through molecular profiling enables doctors to provide treatment that specifically targets genetic mutations identified to be the cause of the disease. The knowledge gained by tumor profile testing allows for a more accurate and reliable prognosis and helps the healthcare provider choose the most appropriate treatment for their patients, depending on the tumor’s unique genetic characteristics. Thus, the chances of effective treatment increase considerably and consequently, ineffective treatments can be avoided.
Expansion of our knowledge and understanding about cancer and cancer diversity, helps us discover and reevaluate treatments that ultimately could lead to declining cancer incident rates and mortality rates all together.
Compiled using information from:
Press Release No 263, Latest global cancer data: Cancer burden rises to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million cancer deaths in 2018, World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2018 [https://www.who.int/cancer/PRGlobocanFinal.pdf]
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