Overcoming the obstacles: a personalized approach to cancer therapy
Every cancer is different. This difference is caused by the specific genetic make-up of each individual and of each tumor, making every cancer patient unique.
The genetic information that determines the fate of the cells in our body is stored in the DNA. This information is transcribed from genes into messenger RNA molecules, which are translated into the proteins that carry out essential functions within each of our cells. Cancer is driven by molecular dysfunctions initiated in one single cell; a multi-step process that begins with alterations of the genome (e.g mutations) and epigenome (modifications of the genome affecting RNA expression levels), leading to uncontrolled cell growth and cycles of cell divisions, eventually forming cancerous tissue.
Each tumor displays a specific set of molecular alterations. The nature of these alterations is complex, often consisting of a combination of mutations (modifications in the DNA sequence), chromosomal rearrangements (leading to aberrant gene fusions), chromosomal copy number alterations (loss or duplication of a chromosome or its parts), and changes in RNA levels.
“Finding the tumor’s Achilles heel to better fight”. Deep knowledge of the tumor molecular alterations opens up the possibility of precisely targeting those alterations.
Precision medicine and personalized treatment
The concept of ‘precision medicine’ is becoming increasingly relevant for cancer treatment, moving from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ standard therapy to a more personalized scheme guided by molecular diagnostics. Quoting the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (USA): “precision medicine uses specific information about a person’s tumor to help diagnose, plan treatment, find out how well treatment is working, or make a prognosis. Examples of precision medicine in cancer include using targeted therapies to treat specific types of cancer cells”.
Precision oncology developed upon advances in Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies, revolutionizing cancer care with tumor molecular profiling informing treatment choice. Up to now, precision oncology has been largely relying on identifying key mutations in the tumor DNA by means of panel sequencing, a method scanning only designated cancer gene targets. Though the panel approach helps to orientate therapy choices for particular cancer types, many “hard to treat” tumors remain in need of more effective diagnostic solutions.
Innovative tumor diagnostics available for personalized oncology
A comprehensive molecular tumor analysis offers the best chance for personalizing cancer care, enlarging the scope of therapy choices and offering potential new options for challenging cases, for instance metastatic tumors, rare cancer types, and cancers of unknown primary.
On the technical side, a combination of NGS methods including whole-exome (WES), whole-genome (WGS) and transcriptome sequencing (RNAseq) is deployed in order to enable the comprehensive molecular analysis. Cutting-edge bioinformatics pipelines integrate the multiple data levels to generate a personalized tumor report. One key asset of this solution is the use of whole transcriptome data as a booster enhancing the sensitivity and information content of the diagnostic test.
(Further reading on this topic: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28595192)
The CMTA unique personalized cancer diagnostics offered by Alacris Theranostics
Our Comprehensive Molecular Tumor Analysis (CMTA) is a certified cancer diagnostic test, which generates a detailed molecular profile of your tumor. The key findings are summarized in a concise report delivered to your oncologist. Designed for clinical tumor boards, the CMTA report contains essential molecular information about your tumor with an interpretation of clinically-relevant biomarkers which may guide the treatment strategy. It is important to note, however, that not all molecular alterations identified by the CTMA will find a match with a targeted drug – a drug that interferes with specific molecules involved in cancer – as the number of available drugs approved for clinical use is still limited.
If you are a patient interested in our services, please talk to your doctor/oncologist. The CMTA is a certified diagnostic test which can only be ordered through a healthcare professional.