Personalized Medicine: Using genome data gaining traction among physicians & patients in guiding treatment decisions

Recent advances in DNA research suggest that whole genome sequencing can actually be used as a diagnostic tool to better understand how to treat serious illnesses such as cancer.

Cancer tumors occur when normal cells acquire genetic mutations that let them grow out of control. Through genetic sequencing, scientists can now identify variations that will show the likelihood of an individual to develop certain kinds of cancer and even how these mutations would react to certain treatments. This important research has led to the successful sequencing of hundreds of cancer genomes – just in this past year. This offers new hope and a possible new direction for personalized cancer treatment.

In a recent study, Dr. Steven Jones and his team of researchers implanted a patient’s cancerous tumor cells into a mouse to hypothesize about which drugs would work best using the model created from the genome analysis, and test those drugs on the mouse before trying them in the patient. The chosen drug made the patient’s tumor growth stop for eight months. The research was published last month in Genome Biology.

The problem with using genome sequencing as a ‘marker identifier’ in the past had been mainly one of cost. Not anymore – For a state of the art, personalized approach, tumors can now be viewed with extraordinary detail at a cost of only $10k – $20k which is about the same cost as a few MRI scans!

Even though some scientists feel that genome sequencing to help patients suffering from diseases like cancer is too preliminary and that its success will be difficult to evaluate, others feel that when patients have no other options, the genetic information could be an important piece of data that might help decide which treatment would work best – possibly saving lives.

In my opinion, such an analysis should be done not only in rare cancer cases, but every time for every patient.

Read more about Treating cancer based on its genome.

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