When individuals are diagnosed with cancer, doctors need to access as much information as possible about the malignant cells. By determining what type of cancer is present and if it has spread to other parts of the body, for example, doctors can prescribe the appropriate treatment and improve patient outcomes.
In the same way that scans and blood tests are used to gather more information about a patient’s condition, tumor profiling is used to learn more about the tumor itself. However, the detailed information that is obtained via tumor profiling can enable medical professionals to deliver highly targeted therapies and treatments.
How Does Tumor Profiling Work?
To carry out tumor profiling, doctors must first take a biopsy of the tumor. Depending on its location, this may be done via surgery or as an out-patient procedure. Then, the DNA cells are extracted from the tumor and purified before being examined.
At this stage, scientists use DNA sequencing to examine the tumor’s DNA. In any organism, it is the DNA that determines growth and behavior. By finding out exactly how a tumor has developed and how it is likely to grow via its DNA, doctors can determine which treatments are most effective.
Furthermore, the highly detailed information that’s generated by DNA sequencing enables scientists to identify gene mutations in the tumor’s DNA. When these are confirmed, doctors are better able to stop the continued development of the tumor, thus preventing the spread of cancer.
Can Tumor Profiling Cure Cancer?
Tumor profiling is an advanced investigative tool, rather than a treatment. Although tumor profiling does not shrink or eliminate the cancer cells, the information gained via profiling does enable doctors to deliver more targeted treatments. As a result, patient outcomes can be significantly improved when tumor profiling is used.
In addition to this, tumor profiling is enabling the scientific community to learn more about how gene mutations lead to malignancies and, therefore, how cancer develops in the body. This information is extremely powerful in terms of being able to identify cancer at an early stage, particularly when a patient might be asymptomatic.
As we learn more about tumor development and behavior via DNA sequencing and tumor profiling, there is the potential to identify key risk factors too. We can already identify when people have a high risk of developing certain cancers via gene testing. By investigating BRCA gene mutations, for example, doctors can determine whether a patient has a high risk of developing breast cancer in the future.
This insight can enable preventative medicines and treatments to be carried out, thus reducing or eliminating the risk of the patient ever developing this type of cancer. As the scientific community continues to gather more information via tumor profiling and DNA sequencing, additional breakthroughs are likely to lead to more effective treatments, earlier diagnoses, and, ultimately, the prevention of cancer.
What Are Targeted Therapies?
Common cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, work by targeting all of the cells in the body. Although these therapies are designed to impact the mutated cells, they also affect every other cell, which is partly why people can experience a range of side effects when undergoing treatment.
In contrast, targeted therapies are designed to impact only the mutated cells. This means that cancer can potentially be treated without other cells in the body being affected. Not only can this improve the efficacy of the treatment, but it can also reduce the side effects that are commonly associated with traditional cancer treatments.
Tumor profiling is a pre-cursor to targeted cancer treatment. By undertaking tumor profiling, doctors can determine whether a patient is eligible for targeted therapies and, if so, which therapy is likely to be the most effective.
How Long Does Tumor Profiling Take?
Once a tissue sample has been obtained, tumor profiling can be carried out relatively quickly. In fact, many patients obtain their results from tumor profiling within just one or two weeks of a biopsy being carried out. Following this, an appropriate treatment regimen can be prescribed swiftly in a bid to halt the growth of the tumor.
Tumor profiling is already widely used in the medical community, although its prevalence is increasing. As more targeted therapies become available, there is no doubt that tumor profiling will continue to be a critical process in the treatment, management, and resolution of cancer.