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Precision medicine is a method of patient care, which allows the doctor to choose the treatments they feel will be most beneficial to a patient based on a genetic consideration of their condition. This is sometimes referred to as personalized medicine. This idea is not a new one, but science and technology have made advances, and these have increased the rate of progress in this zone of research.

Those patients diagnosed with cancer now regularly receive the same treatment as other patients diagnosed with the same type of cancer and at the same stage. Until recently, doctors were unsure why these patients responded differently. Scientists now understand, after decades of research, that genetic differences in patient tumors trigger different growth and spread rates. They have also discovered that in people with the same type of cancer, these changes may not always occur. In addition, the same cancer-causing variations can be seen in different types of cancer.

What Does Precision Medicine Promise?

It is hoped that one day, all treatments will be personalized to the genetic alterations of an individual’s cancer. Scientists believe in the future genetic tests will assist in finding which treatment will elicit a response from a patient’s tumor, therefore saving the patient from treatment that is unlikely to be successful. Current research studies are underway to see if treating patients with specific therapies that target the cancer-causing genetic alterations in tumors, regardless of the type of cancer, will benefit them. These drugs are mainly referred to as targeted therapies.

Current cancer treatment means a combination of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and immunotherapy. The type a patient will receive depends on the spread of cancer, type and size. Precision Therapy uses information about a tumor’s genetic changes to find the best treatment for the patient.

With cancers that have specific genetic changes, there are some drugs that have proven effective, and these have often been brought to market with the help of a good market access consultancy company.

The precision medicine approach, despite the progress in research being made daily, is not yet routine care for the majority of cancer patients. Precision medicine clinical trials are, however testing many new treatments that should target specific alterations. Patients with specific cancers and stages are being accepted to some clinical trials, while those with a variety of cancer types and stages are being accepted to others. Only tumours with genetic change are accepted for these precision medical trials.

Precision Medicine, Not For Everyone

If a targeted drug or approved treatment is available for a patient’s type of cancer, then patients will probably be tested to check if the genetic change the treatment targets exists in the cancer. Some patients with lung, breast, colon and rectal cancers, as well as some melanomas, usually have their cancer checked for specific genetic changes at diagnosis. Patients may also be tested if their cancer becomes worse or comes back as additional genetic changes can occur.

If no targeted treatment that is approved is available, a patient may still be checked for genetic changes to see if they are a candidate for a clinical trial. 

Genetic Change Identification

A biopsy is usually used to determine which genetic changes the cancer has. A sample of the cancer is removed, and a special lab will check for the genetic changes using a variety of techniques.

Precision Medicine – The Future

Research is ongoing – not all the genetic changes have been discovered. Progress is being made with new discoveries every day. Information from research is collected in databases that can be assessed all over the country, this data sharing will help move research forward.

Following the discovery of genetic changes, research is carried out to see which drugs can target these changes. These are then tested in clinical trials on patients. 

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About the Author

Layla Flinn

Guest Blogger

Layla Flinn is a Sydney based writer and researcher, a regular contributor at Smooth Decorator blog. She writes about décor, gardening, recycling, ecology, and business. She thinks all these topics fall under the self-improvement category. She believes in the power of sharing ideas and communicating via the internet to achieve betterment.