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November 21, 2007

Cancer Care Goes Digital

Personalized medicine is already well on its way in the field of oncology, where several drugs and diagnostic tests are targeted at the genetic mutations that lead to cancer.

The increasing synergy between cancer genetics and new medicines means that cancer treatments are more effective, and less toxic than ever before:

Genetic tests have taken their place alongside imaging equipment, biopsies and family history in helping doctors tailor treatments and make prognoses. The biological tests have broad implications for other branches of medicine - from cardiology to neuroscience - but it is in cancer where the technology has ventured the furthest the fastest.

The $3,600 Oncotype DX test Rinella got is one example. Both University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic offer it at their cancer centers.


Other commercially available tests can spot mutations in a small subset of lung cancers that a new class of targeted therapies can pierce with missile-like precision. Another test searches for genetic variants in colon cancer patients that make them resistant to frontline therapy. Still others search for a rare quartet of mutations that dramatically raise the risk of colon and reproductive cancers.

The field is growing by leaps and bounds - driven, at least partly, by the fact that cancer treatments are so expensive. By using targeted cancer drugs, we can reduce the use of wasteful treatments and increase survival. That's a win for everyone.

Posted by Paul Howard at November 21, 2007 10:29 AM


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