Cancer Centers Racing to Map Patients’ Genes

Sunday’s New York Times Headline Underscores the Promise of Precision Oncology

Sitting on the inside of the research enterprise, it can be easy to forget that many folks might not have heard of, much less understand, precision medicine or precision oncology. In the simplest of terms, the ability to map the genes of cancer patients and determine the specific genotype (variety) of their tumors is rapidly moving oncology into an era of precision medicine where the right oncology treatment is delivered to the right patient for optimal outcome. Less effective treatments are reduced and those that can best target specific tumor types and destroy them can be deployed sooner.

Mark Rubin, MD, Director of the Institute for Precision Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Research teams around the world are moving this new approach forward. Last year, the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Stand Up to Cancer announced two Dream Teams that are focused on this specific area.

First Dream Team announced April, 2012.

Second Dream Team announced October, 2012.

The more I thought about the story, the more I realized this is indeed news for the general public. Deciphering current treatment options is daunting enough, never mind trying to understand what lies ahead. Yesterday’s New York Times’ article takes a look at how some leading cancer centers in the U.S. are investing in this promising area of oncology.

Of the eight medical institutions listed in the New York Times story that are focusing on precision cancer medicine, the Prostate Cancer Foundation is providing anti-cancer research funding to seven.The article included mention of the new Institute for Precision Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Mark Rubin, a PCF-funded researcher is director of the Institute. I recently had the privilege to talk with him about the Institute and precision medicine. I believe the 12-minute video interview provides a good primer on the topic.

In the interview, Dr. Rubin says: “The concept that prostate cancer is not one cancer, but rather many cancers is important for patients and clinicians to think about. This is going to lead us in the direction of breast or lung cancer where there are very well-defined subtypes and known drugs that provide specific responses.”

It is promising to know that progress against all cancers continues at an accelerated pace. We stand at the threshold of an important new era for patient treatment.

“We need to recognize that this is going to be a process of learning and that we need to invest not only in the clinic, but research efforts that support what we do with the knowledge.”

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One Response to “Cancer Centers Racing to Map Patients’ Genes”

  1. Dan:

    Yes, indeed. When I talk to friends and family, I plainly see how little most of them know or understand concerning the treatment options that are in sight and that are on the horizon. Articles like the one in the Times are necessary–and we should talk these matters up whenever we can.

    Just last week, I spent time with some old and dear friends who I quickly realized needed a little advice about available treatment options. They were happy to hear what I had to say to them and now they will do some research on their own.