The conversation around cancer is evolving, and providing ever-improving results, thanks to greater patient education and a growing willingness to embrace genomics.
Cancer is the result of a DNA replication error in a cell that has gone unnoticed or unrepaired by the immune system. The affected cell mutates and grows uncontrollably, leading to the formation of a tumor.
The best practice for treating cancer in 2023 is to locate and respond to the DNA error that is causing the growth of the cancer. Best practice for treatment response is also rapidly evolving in line with the new evidence being unlocked by the ever-increasing knowledge of genomics.
As patients become more informed and empowered through their efforts to understand the basic genomic profile of their tumor and the specific mutation responsible for its growth, they are making significant contributions to what is defined as best practice in cancer treatment. Their willingness to learn and share their knowledge, is becoming increasingly valuable to the medical community and is paving the way for more personalized and effective cancer therapies.
Patients who actively learn, participate in their treatment plans, and provide valuable feedback are proving to be important partners in the fight against cancer, and their contributions are a testament to the power of patient education and understanding.
There is evidence to suggest that patient education around cancer has been increasing over time. For example:
- A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2018 found that cancer patients are increasingly turning to the internet for information about their diagnosis and treatment options. The study analyzed data from the Health Information National Trends Survey and found that the percentage of cancer patients who reported using the internet for cancer-related information increased from 43% in 2005 to 63% in 2017.
- A survey conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2016 found that patients with cancer are more engaged in their care and treatment decisions than ever before. The survey found that 81% of cancer patients reported feeling comfortable asking their doctor questions, and 74% reported feeling comfortable discussing treatment options with their doctor.
- A study published in the Journal of Cancer Education in 2021 found that cancer patients who receive a tailored educational intervention are more likely to adhere to their treatment regimens and experience better outcomes. The study involved 370 patients with various types of cancer and found that those who received a tailored educational intervention had higher medication adherence rates and fewer unplanned hospitalizations than those who did not receive the intervention.
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that genomic profiling of tumors can lead to more targeted and effective cancer treatments. Here are some examples:
- In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first cancer treatment that is based on a patient's genetic profile. The treatment, called pembrolizumab (Keytruda), is approved for patients with solid tumors that have a specific genetic mutation called microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR). This approval was based on clinical trials that showed that pembrolizumab was effective in treating patients with these specific genetic mutations.
- In a clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015, researchers used genomic profiling to identify genetic mutations in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Based on these mutations, the researchers were able to match each patient with a targeted therapy that was specific to their tumor. The study found that patients who received targeted therapy had better outcomes than those who received standard chemotherapy.
- In a case study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2018, researchers used genomic profiling to identify a rare genetic mutation in a patient with a type of sarcoma. Based on this mutation, the patient was treated with a targeted therapy that was specific to their tumor. The patient experienced a significant reduction in tumor size and a prolonged progression-free survival.
These examples illustrate how genomic profiling can help identify specific genetic mutations that can be targeted with precision therapies, resulting in more effective and personalized treatments for cancer patients.
There is a wealth of research and expert opinion that supports the claim that best practices for treating cancer are rapidly evolving in response to new evidence from genomics. Here are a few examples:
- In a 2021 article in the journal Cell, a team of researchers highlighted how genomic profiling is revolutionizing cancer treatment. They noted that genomic profiling can help identify genetic mutations that drive tumor growth and can be targeted with precision therapies. They also noted that genomic profiling can help identify patients who are likely to respond to immunotherapy, which is a type of cancer treatment that harnesses the patient's immune system to fight cancer.
- In a 2019 article in the journal Nature, a team of researchers noted that advances in genomic sequencing have enabled researchers to better understand the complex genetic changes that occur in cancer cells. They noted that this knowledge is leading to the development of more effective and personalized cancer treatments.
- In a 2020 article in the journal The Lancet Oncology, a team of researchers highlighted how genomic profiling is leading to better outcomes for cancer patients. They noted that genomic profiling can help identify patients who are likely to benefit from targeted therapies, and can also help identify patients who are unlikely to respond to standard treatments. They concluded that genomic profiling is "an essential component of modern cancer care."
- In a 2018 interview with the American Society of Clinical Oncology, oncologist Dr. Mark G. Kris noted that genomic profiling is "one of the most exciting areas in cancer research and treatment." He noted that genomic profiling can help identify specific genetic mutations that drive tumor growth, and can also help identify patients who are likely to benefit from targeted therapies.
These examples highlight the growing consensus among experts that genomic profiling is leading to more effective and personalized cancer treatments, and that best practices for treating cancer are rapidly evolving in response to new evidence from genomics.
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