For more than 100 years, scientists have been searching for better ways to treat cancer. The development of an innovative diagnostic tool, called the genomic tumor assessment, represents a significant step forward for cancer patients.
Genomic tumor assessment, which is offered at CTCA, examines changes occurring within an individual patient’s tumor to identify treatment options not previously considered.
“We look for very specific abnormalities present within the tumor,” says Dr. Maurie Markman, CTCA's National Director of Medical Oncology. “We are going to be able to be more precise in finding a particular abnormality in an individual patient's cancer.
Traditionally, cancer has been defined by where it occurs: Cancer in the breast is breast cancer, in the lung is lung cancer, etc. It has been the norm to try a few types of chemotherapy before the right combination is found.
In recent years, though, researchers and physicians have found that a particular cancer in one patient doesn't necessarily behave the same way in another patient. By looking at the genetic level, physicians may find that a drug never before considered for a particular cancer might be appropriate.
Cancers now are being categorized by the underlying gene mutations that drive the cancer's growth. The genomic tumor assessment examines an individual patient's tumor genetically to identify the mechanism that caused the cancer.
Doing so can help physicians select treatment options that are individually tailored to the patient. CTCA has been doing genetic testing for years as part of the standard care for patients with breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Those tests, though, target genetic abnormalities inherited through a family line.
Genomic tumor assessment looks at genetic mutations that have nothing to do with heredity but occur within the disease itself. Whether or not genomic testing is right for a patient is a decision made with the patient's medical team based on the patient's individual situation.
“This is an exciting development for Cancer Treatment Centers of America and our patients,” says Dr. Markman. “Our organization has for three decades focused on the patient – the individual. The concept of precision medicine is to focus on the individual tumor in the individual patient, which fits very nicely with what we’re trying to do.”
Learn more about genomic tumor assessment.