Personalizing cancer care with precision medicine

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Written by Danielle Johns

It’s a situation all too common for many. After going in for a routine screening, the doctor notices an abnormality. After the biopsy, you get the dreaded news – it’s cancer.

Your doctor starts you on a treatment regimen including chemotherapy and radiation therapy. After a few weeks of treatment, the cancer hasn’t responded. The oncologist tries a new cocktail of drugs in hopes that the cancer responds this time. This trial-and-error approach can continue for some time until progress is hopefully made.

Meanwhile, you’re suffering the often harsh side effects from these treatments, driving down your quality of life. Plus, the waiting game to see if you’re responding to the new round of treatment or if the cancer is rapidly progressing is amplifying your stress and anxiety during an already stressful time. It’s a scary situation to be in.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

Enter precision oncology

What if doctors could utilize advanced diagnostics to select the optimal treatment regimen for the specific cancer you have?

What if, after receiving your personalized cancer diagnosis, your doctor prescribes a treatment designed for the specific genetic mutation causing your cancer?

What if you could eliminate the need for harsh treatment options like radiation and speed up treatment with targeted therapies such as immunotherapy?

This isn’t science fiction. It’s a reality.

This is precision oncology.

Precision oncology to aid in diagnosis

Thanks to advances in genomic sequencing over the last two decades, genetic testing is more accessible and affordable than ever before. These advancements, and the rapidly evolving science in the field of genomics, means we can better diagnose and treat cancer in a timely manner.

With over a hundred different types of cancer out there, each with its own treatment options, access to the right diagnostic tests to narrow in on the precise type of cancer is crucial to improving patient outcomes.

Somatic genetic testing vs Germline genetic testing

Somatic genetic testing, or tumor testing, is rapidly become a more routine part of oncology as it can help providers identify specific mutations in tumor cells. Somatic genetic testing can help identify treatment options targeted at the mutations present in the cancerous tumor cells.

Additionally, germline genetic testing, which looks at inherited genetic mutations, is becoming more common to screen patients for their risk of developing cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 screenings for breast and ovarian cancer are some of the more well-known types of germline genetic testing.

While germline testing isn’t specific to the tumor, it still can aid in diagnosis and yield insights on potential treatment options. With the growing field of pharmacogenomics, which looks at drug-to-gene interactions, germline genetic testing could prove to be even more useful in guiding treatment options in the years to come.

How more precise cancer diagnoses helps life science companies

For providers, the more precise diagnosis helps them better understand what type of cancer a patient has and the most effective treatment options. The more precise cancer diagnosis is also important to life science companies as they look to develop and bring new therapies and treatments to market.

Leveraging data on cancer diagnosis, clinicians can better understand if there are certain cancers that don’t respond to treatment options to improve research and development within life sciences companies.

Additionally, insights on diagnoses can help clinicians source possible clinical trial sites for targeted therapies and identify patients who could benefit from diagnostics to identify the optimal targeted therapies to improve outcomes.

Outside of that, analytics on which physicians are ordering specific lab tests and performing procedures, as well as insight into which laboratory or facility fulfills the orders, can help biopharmaceutical and medical device companies understand how to best influence patient care patterns to deliver optimal outcomes with their treatment.

Precision oncology to aid in treatment

For everyone involved – from life sciences companies to oncologists to patients – finding the right treatment for the individual patient is the ultimate end goal.

The benefits of more personalized treatment options to the patient are enormous.

More effective treatment options that work faster and offer less damage to the body from radiation are a gamechanger. Not only could it help save a person’s life, but more effective treatments can alleviate the stress and uncertainty that goes along with receiving cancer care. Additionally, finding the right treatment first can save patients money in the long run by eliminating unnecessary care.

However, getting the optimal diagnostics and drugs into the hands of the right patients and right providers can be a challenge.

First off, providers don’t always have time to stay up to date on the latest science and breakthroughs in precision oncology.

To give you a sense of how hard it is to keep up with the latest developments in precision oncology, the FDA approved more than 160 oncology pharmacogenomic biomarkers by 2019, and more than 90 percent of pivotal trials are against molecular targets, according to research from McKinsey.

Additionally, FDA approvals for chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CAR-T) therapies are expected to increase from two in 2019 to 24 in 2024.

The explosion of new therapies is a boon for patients, but providers cannot keep track of every new approval out there. The fact that many of these therapies are also highly targeted towards specific genomic markers makes it even harder for physicians to know the right treatment options for their patients.

To help get these precision oncology treatments in the hands of the patients who need them, life sciences companies should leverage their medical science liaisons (MSLs) and their medical affairs team to provide medical and scientific education to providers of the new diagnostic and treatment options coming to market.

With insights on the medical diagnosis, MSLs can identify the right providers to reach out to and talk through the science of these new therapies and how it fits into the treatment landscape to get them in the hands of the right patients.

Precision medicine is the future

As scientific advancements in the field of genomics continue, precision medicine will become the standard of care.

To deliver on the promise of precision medicine, however, providers and life sciences companies need diagnostics data to identify the right patients to deliver the right treatments at the right time.

Definitive Healthcare can help provide healthcare commercial intelligence to guide pharmaceutical companies in bringing precision oncology treatments to market to make precision medicine a reality.

Learn more about Definitive Healthcare’s solutions for biopharma and for medical devices today.

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