In the past five to ten years, the field of oncology has witnessed a profound change in the way cancer patients are treated. The “one-size-fits-all” approach that relied heavily on the same chemotherapy regimen for everybody with cancers arising from a certain organ or tissue type has given way to an increased focus on the genomic variants within each patients cancer that might be driving that specific cancers growth.
By identifying these specific genetic changes within each unique patients cancer, molecular biologists and pharmaceutical companies have been able to develop drugs that can uniquely target cancer cells which have that particular genetic or molecular abnormality. Consequently, these subsets of patients that are treated with ‘targeted’ or ‘biomarker matched’ therapies are able to gain a significant survival benefit.
And yet despite broad agreement on the importance of biomarker testing for all cancer patients, the reality in clinical practices in the United States and across the world is that too many cancer patients are still not having their cancers routinely profiled to look for targetable genetic or molecular markers, and are therefore missing out on potentially life saving therapies.