The goal of precision oncology is to match the right drug and treatment plan with the right patient. To achieve this, precision medicine researchers are developing new technologies that adapt to each person’s unique genetic makeup. One example is CAR T-cell therapy, which involves removing a person’s immune cells and engineering them to attack cancer cells. Another example is liquid biopsy, which analyzes DNA fragments in blood or other bodily fluids to determine whether cancer has metastasized or if new treatments are working.
What is Precision Oncology?
Precision oncology is a branch of oncology that focuses on matching cancer treatments to the molecular makeup of an individual’s tumors. Precision medicine researchers are developing newly available technologies for detecting, monitoring, and responding to cancer that enable them to tailor treatment to an individual’s genetic profile. The goal is to match the right drug or treatment with the right patient. The hope is that genetically targeted therapies will have fewer side effects and produce better results than traditional treatments. It is tough to determine the exact molecular characteristics during surgery and treatment.
Precision oncology aims to find tumors that are perfectly matched for treatment. The hope is that targeting individual cells in a tumor will create an ideal environment for cancer cells, resulting in fewer side effects and better results than traditional treatments.
1. CAR-T Cell Therapy
CAR-T cell therapy is a form of immunotherapy that uses a patient’s own genetically engineered immune cells, called T cells, to fight cancer. T cells are white blood cells that play an essential role in the body’s immune system by attacking and killing viruses and bacteria. Scientists have developed a way to reprogram T cells by inserting a piece of DNA from another type of immune cell, called a “chimeric antigen receptor” or CAR. The CAR contains a protein that targets a cancer-specific antigen on the surface of the T cell. The CAR-T cells are grown in the lab then infused back into the patient to attack and kill cancer cells.
2. Liquid Biopsy
Liquid biopsy is a diagnostic test that detects cancer cells in blood or other bodily fluids. They developed this technology to help doctors predict metastatic disease progression and understand how well a patient’s treatment works. For example, a liquid biopsy may be used to determine whether a patient’s liver cancer has spread to the lungs. A liquid biopsy involves extracting small amounts of cells from a bodily fluid then analyzing the DNA in those cells for signs that cancer progresses or responds to treatment.
3. Precision Medicine
Another new type of technology that is being developed for precision oncology is called precision medicine. Precision medicine involves analyzing a person’s genetic makeup to determine the best course of treatment. For example, doctors may determine that a patient with advanced metastatic cancer is likely to respond positively to a drug that targets phosphoinositide 3-kinase or epidermal growth factor receptor and therefore recommend this drug as part of the treatment plan. Or a doctor may conclude that a patient’s specific tumor’s genetic makeup makes them better suited to receive a therapy that uses gene-editing technology to wipe out the patient’s cancer cells.
Precision oncology is a new field of medicine that is helping doctors adapt to each patient’s unique genetic makeup. High-tech solutions and genetic profiles are enabling researchers to link the presence of specific cancer-related DNA mutations in patients’ genomes to the likelihood that patients will respond positively to certain drugs and treatments. This personalized approach to cancer treatment is revolutionizing how researchers understand, diagnose, and treat cancer.