Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Genomics will make cancer a chronic disease

So says Alan Ashworth, in this National Post article:
All patients will soon have their tumour’s DNA, its genetic code, sequenced, enabling doctors to ensure they give exactly the right drugs to keep the disease at bay.  Doctors hope it will be an important step towards transforming cancer into a chronic rather than fatal disease.
Yes. DNA-based prediction of tumour drug responses is an absolute requirement over tissue-centric estimates of cancer pathology.
The Institute of Cancer Research, London wants to build a DNA database to identify lots of genes responsible for cancers. It is launching a three-year, £3-million project called the Tumour Profiling Unit to advance knowledge of the genetic profile of cancer.
Prof Ashworth said: “None of this is science fiction. One would think in five or 10 years this will be absolutely routine practice for every cancer patient.”
Though the 5-10 year horizon for this kind of practice is optimistic for 'every' cancer patient, it's definitely possible for some cancers and some subtypes within individual cancers. 
But one of the huge challenges, which remains unspoken, is to actually get this kind of technology from a stage where it's working in well-equipped labs, to becoming efficient and cheap tests used by physicians to make treatment decisions.  
We're in a stage were a handful of mutation-drug response combinations have been proven and it's commonly held plausible that the idea will extend to many more combinations.  The next decade will be much more welcoming to new predicted mutation-drug responses coming out of this kind of research (which is being done at all major cancer centres, by the way).