Precision oncology is a term that refers to the practice of using newly developed advances in molecular diagnostic technologies and imaging modalities to more precisely target therapies towards the precise molecular or cellular changes that exist in tumors. This highly accurate and specialized targeting is particularly useful in the treatment of cancer because it allows the use of much smaller doses of therapeutic agents, resulting in significantly improved efficacy.
1. Precision Oncology Is a More Efficient Way to Treat Cancer
Drug treatment of cancer is often guided by the type of tumor and the location of the tumor. However, the more they learn about the molecular and cellular changes that occur in tumor cells leading to metastasis and even tumor initiation and growth, the more they realize that precision medicine could lead to a faster improvement in survival rates for cancer patients. This may mean more efficient use of resources, to reduce the number of patients who undergo treatment and simply do not respond well. The alternative is a waste of resources by over-treating those who are unlikely to benefit from the drug therapy they receive.
2. Precision Oncology Can Lead to Better Treatment Outcomes
There is a general consensus among physicians and researchers that they are still far from achieving treatment success rates of 80-90% in any given organ or tissue system. That means that even with the most highly developed and focused research and testing on tumor initiation and metastasis, we still only manage to cure about 20% of those who are diagnosed with cancer. It is estimated that today, they find a cure for less than 5% of those who suffer from the disease. Precision oncology may help to correct this disparity by more quickly identifying those patients whose tumors seem like they would respond well to certain drug therapies. This could make it possible to increase the treatment success rate by simply finding a drug therapy that will work.
3. Precision Oncology Can Improve the Quality of Life for Patients
Oncologists are becoming more aware that they are not simply treating cancer, but improving the quality of life for their patients. They are aware that cancer can not only lead to death, but also to other complications that can be just as devastating to a patient’s quality of life, if not more so. Precision oncology seeks to extend the quality of life for cancer patients by identifying drug therapies that directly target the tumor without damaging the surrounding tissue. This will also be more pleasant for the patient, reducing the number of negative side effects, which are often thought to outweigh the positive effects of chemotherapy.
4. Precision Oncology Helps Patients Avoid Chemotherapy
Many patients do not benefit from the standard chemotherapeutic treatments used today. Those who are ineligible for surgery are treated with chemotherapy, both in the hope of curbing cancer growth and preventing the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, these drugs can have serious negative side effects, including infections and even cancer of the liver, lungs, or bone marrow.
5. Precision Oncology May Help Reduce the Cost of Treatment
Precision oncology can help reduce the cost of treatment by accurately identifying those patients for whom a particular drug will work, as well as those cases where a particular therapeutic regimen would be ineffective. This can lead to significant savings for those who qualify and for the health care system as a whole.
6. Precision Oncology Can Lead to Early Detection of Cancer
As cancer research moves forward in the 21st century, the predictive value of early detection has become more important than ever. Today, many cancers can be detected in their earliest stages and treated before they have spread. Precision oncology may allow us to better identify those cancers which are most likely to remain localized within a specific organ or tissue system.
Precision oncology is a relatively new and exciting field of cancer research that holds the potential to significantly impact how cancer gets treated and improve patient outcomes. By providing better treatment options and improving the quality of life for cancer patients, it may be possible to create a future where cancer is treated like other chronic diseases.