Cancer treatment is evolving. Modern treatment for the condition goes beyond understanding where in the body the tumor started and how big it was during the time of diagnosis. In fact, more and more doctors are embracing personalized medicine to treat cancer patients.
The new approach involves selecting effective treatments based on a doctor’s genetic and molecular understanding of a patient’s tumor. Doctors often study a person’s genetic makeup and analyze tumor growth for better outcomes and fewer side effects.
In the long run, the approach can help doctors and researchers predict what type of treatment is more acceptable to groups of people.
From Traditional Treatment to Targeted Therapy
Personalized medicine might still be in its infancy, but there has been a lot of progress in targeted therapy. Decades of research in science, technology, and therapeutics have proved that tumors go through genetic changes that make it grow and spread.
This discovery has led doctors to embrace broad approaches to cancer treatment like radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy. While these techniques are successful in wiping out cancer cells, they could, however, take out healthy cells in the process.
The late 1990s saw the advent of targeted therapy. Since patients rarely had the same response to similar treatment because of genetic variations in a person’s tumor, doctors started using personalized medicine for a more comprehensive approach to healthcare.
Optimum Treatment with Fewer Side Effects
Personalized medicine entails analyzing a patient’s tumor to determine what drugs will work best for treatment. As a more specific type of treatment, it has the potential to decrease toxic side effects.
When it comes to cancer, personalizing treatment comes in different forms. Compounding pharmacies help by customizing medication to meet the specific needs of individual patients. In turn, it helps physicians optimize their medication therapies.
Other methods of personalized treatment include:
- Testing a cancer patient to determine what kind of treatment would be effective;
- Analyzing a person’s genetics to find out whether he or she would have a favorable response to a type of medicine;
- Conducting genetic tests to understand if a person has genetic mutations that could make the individual more vulnerable to developing cancer, and
- Performing molecular profiling techniques like DNA sequencing to identify mutations in a person’s tumor.
Improved Health Outcomes at a Greater Cost?
While tailoring drugs and treatment to a patient’s genetic profile would have significant benefits, some experts argue it could come at a great cost. As opposed to a conventional approach that uses synthesized chemicals, personalized medication uses biological material. These are chemicals present in living organisms.
While it has little side effects, producing personalized medication is often costly. Additionally, it could be difficult for pharmacies to replicate if they want to make it available for mass consumption.
Instead of relying solely on customized medication, however, researchers suggest raising awareness on cancer prevention issues to complement medicines. In fact, Susan Vadaparampil from the American Cancer Society shares that those who participate in risk reduction behavior like enhanced screenings, risk-reducing surgeries, and chemotherapy prevention had a more positive reaction to personalized treatment.
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