Precision medicine in oncology: a complicated idea needs a simple solution
Cancer therapy has historically been determined by a tumor’s tissue of origin. Now, thanks to advances in genomics technology, scientists are looking further into one’s cancer; into the very genome that drives the tumor growth. The growth of genomics in cancer research has been astronomical. In a little over ten years since the completion of the Human Genome Project, genomic profiling technologies have developed into an incredibly powerful, relatively cheap, and immensely underutilized tool for oncologists. In the midst of the advances in cancer profiling, there has been reluctance from oncologists to incorporate genomic profiling into their treatment decisions. Saddled by outdated clinical trial designs, and cancer drug regulation programs, the true measure of the clinical utility of genomic profiling has yet to be seen. Cancer scientists will continue to profile cancers at a pace well beyond the limits of the field of oncology. Without coordinated efforts to update the oncology healthcare system, compendia of data will continue to be generated with limited ability to translate the information into personalized medicines. There are significant barriers to overcome before genomic data can universally be incorporated into the daily practice of cancer medicine. In the meantime, resources are available for physicians to help begin the process of integrating a more personalized approach to cancer therapy. Third-party bioinformatics companies are in the best position to be the agents of this change. As cancer research continues to adopt a genomic approach, it is paramount that, for the sake of millions of cancer patients, the healthcare system adapts in a way to best utilize this new information.