What Is Precision Cancer Medicine?

If you wear glasses, you may remember the moment when you first put those brand new lenses in front of your eyes and suddenly saw every swirl of your fingerprint, every vein of a leaf from 10 paces away. Precision cancer medicine works much the same way. It's how the world's leading cancer experts get a crystal-clear picture of what drives a cancer's growth.

To learn more, we interviewed Sameek Roychowdhury, MD, PhD, a precision cancer medicine expert at Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center — James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

What is precision cancer medicine (PCM), and why is it important?

The term precision medicine comes from a 2012 report from the National Research Council where they talked about how new research tools have helped us understand human diseases on a molecular level. Learning the molecular basis for a disease allows us to determine how to treat people more effectively and precisely. Cancer is an excellent model for precision medicine since it involves genetic changes in cancer cells. Genomic sequencing technologies allow us to study all of the genes in one person's unique cancer, which is a natural fit for precision medicine. Traditionally when we see cancer patients, we address the type of cancer they have based on the body part or organ in which it originated, like breast, colon and prostate. Each disease/cancer has specialized needs and care in terms of how it behaves and how we take care of it. However, we now know that not all cancers from the same organ are the same — we need to gather more information about each patient's cancer on the molecular level.

How is the OSUCCC — James incorporating PCM in the clinic and advancing it through research?

We have had a Precision Cancer Medicine program since 2012 when we opened a research study supported by the OSUCCC — James and Pelotonia, the American Cancer Society, the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the American Lung Association to develop testing strategies for patients with metastatic or advanced cancer in need of novel treatments. At the OSUCCC — James, we supplement what we already know about the cancer in each organ/area through molecular characterization of an individual's cancer. This allows us to develop innovative clinical trials that can treat individual patients based on their unique cancer's molecular fingerprint.

Can you discuss how much of the current research in precision medicine in oncology is focused on patients with disease versus cancer prevention? How do these two goals differ?

Our PCM program is geared toward treating patients with very advanced cancer and bringing them new treatment options based on the genetics of their unique tumor.

Separate from gene mutations in a person's cancer, between 5-10 percent of patients may have genes that they were born with that may be associated with the risk of developing cancer. It's important to identify cancer risks that run in families in order to counsel them about screening/preventive measures that may provide better outcomes.

To learn more, please visit Ohio State's precision cancer medicine site.

There Is No Routine Cancer

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