Putting the “Precision” in Precision Medicine: Does This Emerging Approach Need a “Nudge”?

October 27, 2016 Nate Largay

Precision medicine and cancer treatment have a troublesome relationship, suggests a recent article by Robert H. Carlson. (To read the article, click here [registration required]).

At times, precision medicine is the unmatched counter response to cancer treatment, and at other times, precision medicine is a mere stepping stone riddled with flaws.

Cancer-cell mutations and genomic abnormalities are two of the biggest hurdles for precision medicine to scale, yet, no matter how faulty precision medicine appears in certain cases, these two hurdles are also the base of its proficiency. There’s no denying that precision medicine is progressing effective cancer treatment options (see its progress on a national scale here), but a richer and all-inclusive approach to data collecting and sharing would likely silence some concerns and doubts.

The first step? Precision medicine needs a nudge to encompass both mutation data and cell context (i.e., the cellular and genomic environment where mutations are found) for maximally efficient cancer treatment.

In the words of David G. Huntsman, MD, FRCPC, FCCMG, University of British Columbia, “Understanding how cell context and mutation interplay from the point of tumor origin through development and progression will help predict why some cancers respond to treatment, whereas others have primary resistance to specific therapies.”

Precision medicine requires a greater holistic approach to individual tumor genomics, clinical information, and environment to accurately combat mutation and cell-context challenges. And for precision medicine to truly perform at its fullest potential, a data-sharing-based platform must be the foundation for clinical treatment.

"A better approach will be academic institutions with molecular tumor boards with a multidisciplinary approach, and even better will be multiple institutions working together," said Massimo Cristofanilli, MD, an associate director for Precision Medicine and Translational Research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

Deep-diving analytics and data sharing certainly won’t cure cancer overnight, but it will emphasize precision in precision medicine.

Read the full article here (registration required).


Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae discussed the rise of precision medicine at TedxAuckland. Watch the video now!

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