Personalized medicine delivers more effective cancer treatment

May 21, 2014 in Personalized Healthcare  •  By Miles Varn
Personalized medicine delivers more effective cancer treatment

Cancer research is advancing with each passing year, and though no cure has been found yet, the odds of survival increase as more efficient and accurate treatment options are developed. Determining which treatment is most likely to be effective for an individual patient, however, can prove difficult.

According to a study from researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and published in the journal Pancreas, personalized molecular profiling that identifies the specific manner in which gene expression has been disrupted in each patient is likely to produce better results. After examining tissue samples and data from a small sample of pancreatic cancer patients, the researchers found very little overlap between the genetic malfunctions found in individual patients compared with those that occurred in the group as a whole.

Individualized treatment leads to better care

According to statistics from the National Cancer Institute, the rate of pancreatic cancer has been slowly rising in the U.S. over the past decade. It is projected that more than 46,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed in 2014, a number that is expected to increase as the population ages. Current treatments for pancreatic cancer do not have a high success rate, with a median survival rate of less than one year.

As part of an effort to uncover better pancreatic cancer treatment options, John McDonald, Ph.D, professor of biotechnology at Georgia Tech and lead author of the study, investigated whether a personalized medicine approach to treatment would improve the effectiveness of treatment. McDonald and his colleagues collected cancerous and normal tissue samples from 12 patients with pancreatic cancer to investigate the individual genetic expressions of cancer in the specimens. The researchers then isolated a selection of the most aberrant genes in the cancerous samples.

McDonald found that 287 genes were markedly changed from their normal expressions, and 22 cellular pathways related to immunological responses were highlighted across the patient sample group. Statistical analyses were conducted to determine if the aberrant genes resulted from any common processes. From that analysis, the researchers discovered that the disrupted genes in individual patients were unique.

Personalized medicine and better outcomes

“For any given individual patient, there may be mutant genes or aberrant expression patterns that are vitally important for that person’s cancer that aren’t present in other patients’ cancers,” McDonald said in a statement. “If you’re dealing with a disease like cancer that can be arrived at by multiple pathways, it makes sense that you’re not going to find that each patient has taken the same path.”

The takeaway from this study – personalized medicine can deliver a more effective treatment and the potential for better outcomes.