June 28

The pace of research and discoveries in the field of medicine, in cancer research particularly, is nothing less than stunning.  Some of the greatest strides are in the field of “personalized medicine,” where diseases are treated at the genetic level — with treatments optimized for each individual patient.

Scientists have discovered that any particular type of cancer is actually a defined group of related cancers.  For instance, prostate cancer is actually comprised of a family of 24 cancers.  And there are eight primary variants of breast cancer.  Knowing the specific cancer variant, in any particular patient, gives doctors an inside track to targeting the cancer with the optimum treatment.

But that’s just the first step.  The most-recent breakthroughs are in the knowledge of each individual’s genetic code.

Just a few years ago, it would have cost millions of dollars to map the entire genome (genetic blueprint) of a single person.  But that price tag has plummeted to $5,000 — thanks to innovative technology companies like Complete Genomics.

Combining precise knowledge of a person’s genome with specific knowledge of a cancer variant is a powerful one-two punch.  It has the real potential to enable ultra-tailored, ultra-effective cancer treatments.  We’re not there yet.  But the convergence of technologies is happening right before our eyes.  Stay tuned.

For additional reference, visit these links:

Wiki genome information:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genome

Genomics and the treatment of prostate cancer:  http://bit.ly/lRLPtI

Interesting article on Complete Genomics:  http://bit.ly/k8ZW4K

Graphic courtesy of MIT / Technology Review