Today, genomics and genetic testing are standard terms people encounter when they research cancer treatment. As researchers continue studying genetics and cancer development, new findings emerge yearly. Combined with a precision medicine or personalized treatment approach, genomic information can make a difference in everything from preventing to treating cancer.
Understanding the Role of Genomics in Personalized Cancer Treatment
A genome is the entire set of DNA in an organism. Genomics involves studying DNA sequences and genomes’ function, structure, evolution and other aspects. In cancer research, genomics has helped professionals understand these key aspects:
- Causes of an individual’s cancer
- How cancer progresses
- Likely responses to treatment
To provide one example of improved understanding, lung cancer used to be classified as non-small cell or small cell. It is classified as the existence or lack of about 30 genetic mutations. Doctors are now developing a better understanding of how certain genetic mutations are connected to the progression of lung cancer and other types. This advanced knowledge helps medical professionals create personalized cancer treatment plans for patients. Genetic information is not only valuable for people who already have cancer. Today, it is also a powerful part of identifying cancer risks.
Who Can Benefit From Genetic Testing for Cancer Risks?
Predictive genetic testing may be recommended for people likely to have mutations linked to certain types of cancer. Medical professionals may recommend genetic testing for these types of individuals:
- People with a significant family history of cancer
- People with a personal history of cancer that was likely caused by an inherited mutation
- People who have certain family members with known inherited mutations that increase cancer risks
For people with a significant family history of cancer, genetic testing may reveal a mutation that puts them at a greater risk of developing one or more types of cancer. The existence of some mutations can change preventive care recommendations. For example, someone with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation may be more likely to develop breast cancer or other types of cancer. Their screening and preventive care recommendations would vary from those of someone without those mutations.
To those with a history of uncommon cancer or cancer at an early age, genetic testing can be helpful to see if there are risks of developing additional types of cancer. If mutations are discovered, that information may inspire at-risk family members also to be tested. When family members realize they have certain mutations, they can find out how to lower their risks. Knowing about mutations can also help guide treatment suggestions if cancer develops in the future.
Why Precision Medicine Is Important for Treating Cancer and Addressing Risks
Also called personalized treatment, precision medicine care is based on known effects of cellular and genetic changes. Whether a person has cancer or high-risk mutations, precision medicine care is a valuable benefit. With personalized and precision medicine, a person’s care plan is based on unique needs. Although genes are a key focus, precision medicine also considers a person’s particular proteins or other bodily substances.
Since there may be multiple treatment options for different forms of cancer, personalized cancer treatment can be especially useful in maximizing the chances of a favorable outcome. Using a customized approach is also valuable in prevention for people with certain risks. Physicians can recommend specific screening tests, health habits, and more.
As knowledge continues to grow through future research advancements, there will likely be even more benefits associated with precision therapy. In addition to improving the quality of care patients receive, personalized and precision medicine can benefit the medical practice using it. Verdi Oncology helps small oncology practices and the physicians who own them build a valuable, patient-centered care approach that improves the patient experience, enhances growth, and increases efficiency.