Precision oncology is an emerging field of cancer research that has the potential to fundamentally change how we diagnose, treat, and prevent cancer. It’s also a buzzword that many people are throwing around without fully understanding what it means. In this blog post, I want to look at five common myths about precision oncology and explain why they’re not true.
1. Precision Oncology is a Recent Trend
Precision oncology is not a new concept. Precision medicine (a very similar term) has been around for decades and was originally introduced in the early nineties by Bernie Siegel. At that time, scientists were already discussing the possibility of tailoring cancer therapies to individual patients, which led to terms like personalized and individualized medicine. However, it wasn’t until 2011, when there was announcement of “National Cancer Moonshot” initiative, that we saw this field start making significant strides towards becoming a reality. While I think this focus from the highest levels helped move things along, there are many other reasons why we’ve decided to embrace such an ambitious approach. For example, at least in the United States, there has been an increase in cancer incidence and a rise in the number of people seeking care. In this context, precision oncology is seen to improve outcomes and make the most use of our limited resources.
2. Precision Oncology is Only for Rare Cancers
Precision oncology can be used for any cancer. It’s not limited to rare diseases. Many common cancers like breast and prostate cancer are already being treated using precision approaches. The important thing is that each patient’s case is evaluated individually, and customized treatments are developed based on their specific biology.
3. Precision Oncology is Expensive and Only Available to the Wealthy
Precision oncology is not only available to the wealthy. There are many varieties of precision medicine, and it’s important not to confuse them. Sometimes precision treatments involve educational materials or preventative measures that don’t cost anything, such as healthy diets and lifestyle choices. However, some therapies require costly drugs, which could be a barrier to access. Many people claim that we should focus on prevention instead of curing cancer, but this view is simplistic and neglects the fact that cancer can often be treated and cured if we find it early enough. The real problem is how do we make those diagnoses? Unfortunately, health care in the United States is largely driven by motives which means your treatment options depend on what your insurance covers.
4. Precision Oncology is All about Targeting Mutations
Precision oncology is not only about targeting mutations. Many of the current therapies that we use in precision oncology don’t even involve looking for mutations. Another critical aspect of precision oncology is identifying the right therapy for each patient. This could include using a therapy that targets a specific mutation, but it could also involve using a therapy that doesn’t target any mutations at all.
5. Precision Medicine is Always Better than Traditional Medicine
Precision oncology is not always better than traditional medicine. Traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can be more effective than precision therapies in some cases. The important thing is that we don’t always know which treatment is best ahead of time. Instead, we need to try both approaches and compare the results.
Precision oncology is a field of medicine that is quickly evolving. While there are many misconceptions about what it is and can do, I think the potential is clear. With the right resources and focus, precision oncology has the potential to improve outcomes for cancer patients and make the most use of our limited resources.