This is the first in a series on advances in genomic testing and the future of cancer treatment.
The last two decades have brought remarkable advances in cancer treatment with the use of precision medicine. Twenty years ago, the major weapon doctors had against most advanced cancers was a harsh regimen of chemotherapy — a one-size-fits-all treatment that leaves patients debilitated while offering limited survival.
The shift to more targeted treatments began after researchers discovered that many cancers are driven by mutations in specific genes. This was most robustly exemplified in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Pharmaceutical companies have now developed more than two dozen drugs for patients with NSCLC that directly target specific genes and mutations, leading to better overall outcomes.
The impact of these advances “has been enormous,” says Dr. Wendy Levin, Chief Medical Officer at Biofidelity, a cancer diagnostic company. “If we can get a patient on a targeted agent that’s more effective and better tolerated, we know that they will have a major survival advantage.”