Every patient is different, so shouldn’t every treatment plan also be unique to that specific patient? It’s called personalized medicine – defined by the National Cancer Institute as “a form of medicine that uses a person’s genes, proteins and environment to prevent, diagnose and treat disease” – and it’s becoming a reality.
20 years ago, Patricia Rice, MSN, CRNP, OCN, (pictured, left) was on staff at the National Cancer Institute and remembers the beginning of the movement to personalized medicine.
“Our scientists were certain gene therapy was the future,” Rice says, “It turns out their predictions were right.”
Today, Rice is a part of the patient care team at Oncology Care Consultants in Frederick. There, she sees patients who have concerns about their cancer risk due to their family histories and patients who have been diagnosed with cancer and are seeking a personalized approach to treatment.
For example, most breast cancer patients have five treatment options: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy. Oncologists work with each patient to decide the best combination of treatments from those options. The field of targeted therapy is where personalized care comes in.
“In the field of oncology, that means your cancer treatment may be based on hereditary genes that make up your DNA and/or based on the genetic makeup of your tumor,” explains Rice. “A targeted therapy is one that seeks out those genes or receptors on the tumor to cause cell death.”
Why does one patient react so differently to one drug versus another? Why do some people have severe side effects when most people tolerate it well? According to Rice, the answer is genetics.
“Whether it’s the genetic makeup of the person, the tumor, or both, most cancer treatment will now be tailored based on the genetic information we obtain when we evaluate each patient.”
A Proactive Approach
You may want to take a more proactive approach in identifying the genes associated with an increased cancer risk (a process we call a Cancer Risk Assessment) if:
- You or a family member was diagnosed with cancer before the age of 50
- Two or more of your family members had the same (or a related) cancer
- You or a family member have had more than one type of cancer
- You are of Eastern European or Jewish ancestry with a family history of cancer
- You have a family history of any rare cancer
- You or a close relative is known to have a genetic mutation that can increase the risk of cancer.
If you are found to be at an increased risk of developing a hereditary cancer, Rice and the staff at Oncology Care Consultants can offer strategies to lower your risk.
To schedule your evaluation, call 301-662-8477.