What is a personalised cancer treatment?
There is a new revolution in the treatment of cancer, and it stems from a greater knowledge in the genetic makeup of tumours.
But, before we look at how your cancer treatment will be personalised, it is essential to understand how cancer is treated.
What’s the difference between personalised and traditional cancer treatment?
Traditional cancer treatment focussed on the area where the original tumour originated, and didn’t always deliver the best results.
Chemotherapy is a commonly used, effective cancer treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells. The problem with chemo is that it sometimes also kills healthy cells.
Chemotherapy can be used to cure the cancer on its own in some situations. It can be used after other treatments, including surgery, to kill off any hidden cancer cells that might have been left behind. It may also be used to prepare you for other treatments, and to ease cancer symptoms.
Today, for some types of cancer, we can develop a treatment plan that is unique to that cancer, and you may receive a course of chemotherapies, immunotherapies and targeted therapies that are more likely to treat your specific cancer.
The oncology team may take samples of your tumour and test for specific DNA and proteins, and in the diagnosis of your tumour and cancer, the doctor may use precision medicine to effectively treat your cancer.
The steps taken to personalise your cancer treatment will start with the screening process, followed by a matching of treatment to those of your own genes and the genes of the cancer. Finally, the doctor will predict the likelihood of the cancer returning or progressing.
Your medical team is likely to test a sample of blood, bone marrow, or tumour tissue to see if there is a dedicated treatment available. Treatment recommendations will rely on these results, along with other influencing factors. Some tumour types will have a so-called ‘target’ that treatment will be directed against, that the normal tissue does not have. So, these treatments can be gentler on normal body tissues.
Here the doctors aim to specifically target the genes and proteins that are affected by the cancer.
Cancers where targeted therapy may be used include:
Bladder cancer Brain cancer Breast cancer Cervical cancer Colorectal cancer Endometrial cancer Oesophageal cancer Head and neck cancer Kidney cancer Leukaemia Liver cancer Lymphoma Lung cancer Melanoma Multiple myeloma Neuroblastoma Neuroendocrine tumours Pancreatic cancer Prostate cancer Soft tissue sarcoma
Stomach cancer Thyroid cancer Gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST)
Some types of childhood cancers.
(Please note that Hunter Valley Oncology is not in a position to care for children with cancer, or patients with leukaemia or multiple myeloma)
Downsides of personalised cancer treatment
- Personalised treatment is not available for all cancers
- Some treatments are still only at clinical trial level
- Personalised treatments may take longer, partially due to testing
- Personalised treatments may be more expensive than traditional treatments.
If you are concerned that you are showing signs or symptoms of cancer or you want to know more about a personalised cancer treatment, visit your GP as soon as possible. We are accepting referrals, and our medical team will tailor your care to suit your body, and your cancer.