At present, cancers are by and large treated based what part of the body the tumor has infected. To put it another way, breast cancer patients, colon cancer patients and lung cancer patients all undergo different treatment methods.However, this type of categorization seems to be on the shift. While location of the cancer tumor will always be important, it is becoming increasingly apparent that patients among a specific type of cancer can benefit from further, more precise levels of grouping.
Specifically, doctors are looking into a number of ways to personalize cancer treatment based on molecular origin rather than tumor location. The thinking is, that if the molecules that are causing the cancerous tumor (which can vary among patients with the same type of cancer) can be targeted, then a more precise and effective treatment method can be pursued.
Several studies have already been released that indicate such methods are effective. For example:
- Head-and-neck cancer tumors with high levels of epidermal growth factor receptors (EGRFs) are more likely to return following surgery.
- The presence of a BRCA2 variant gene increases the probability for breast cancer
- The KRAS biomarker gene can indicate whether cetuximab will be an effective treatment method for colorectal cancer
These are only a few examples of the burgeoning and promising field of personalized cancer treatment. The more oncologists begin to look for differences among cancer categories, the more variations they find. Understanding these differences and how they affect traditional cancer methods can lead to customized drugs or therapies that ultimately work great for some segments of patients, and terribly for others.
Of course, the goal in each case is to find the best customized treatment for each individual patient. As cancer treatment continues in the 21st century, the majority of experts believe that the abandonment of the “one drug fits all” approach will be a key factor in improving cancer treatments and, ultimately, survival rates.