For years, scientists have been searching for better ways to treat cancer. Advancements in genomics might just be a significant step toward getting there.
Genomic testing (not to be confused with genetic testing), also called genomic tumor assessment, is done on cancerous tissue in order to provide information on how the tumor might behave. Genomic testing can be performed on both biopsied tissue and on tissue from an entire cancerous tumor that has been removed. By looking at the genetic makeup of the cancer, doctors are able to get a better idea of how the cancer may act, including:
- Understanding the genomic profile of a patient’s cancerous tumor which allows physicians to administer a more precise (targeted) treatment if one is available.
- Whether your cancer is slow-growing or aggressive. This can affect the type of treatment that is recommended.
- Whether the cancer is likely to spread.
As a result of the Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003, there’s been a shift in how researchers look at cancer. The project, which mapped the entire human genetic code, has led to discoveries that link specific genes to dozens of diseases, including various cancers, making it possible to improve standard cancer treatment options.
The approach of genomic testing is less about where the cancer started in the body (ie: breast, colon, etc.) and more about what is driving the cancer’s growth. Understanding the characteristics that influence the behavior of the cancer can help doctors select cancer treatment therapies that are most likely to work based on the genomic profile of the tumor.
Scientific and technological advances in genomics are revolutionizing cancer treatment and how patients respond. Doctors will soon be able to provide a more personalized approach to each patient’s cancer based on the results of cancer screenings, genetic counseling and testing, genomic testing, and the use of the latest cancer treatments including targeted therapies.
It is important to understand, however, that genomic testing is not for everyone. Your oncologist review this option with you, if it’s available, as well as the benefits and limitations of genomic testing.