Precision medicine is often defined as an approach to healthcare that takes into account how different each person’s environment, lifestyle and genes are from one another. Your genes –sometimes called your DNA –are molecules that control how your body makes other molecules, called proteins. Proteins and genes are like puzzle pieces. In cancer, the genes and proteins that make up one person’s tumor can be very different from another person’s tumor.
As a first step in using precision medicine, your doctor may measure your cancer biomarkers. Biomarkers are molecules in your tumor or your body fluids that can be measured to tell your doctor something specific about your cancer. Biomarkers can be genes, genetic mutations, or proteins. Your doctor may be able to use your biomarker information to guide your treatment options.
The goal of precision medicine is to create a treatment plan according to the “precise” molecular aspects of each patient’s cancer. This makes sure that each person gets the most effective treatment possible. For example, your doctor could decide to use a therapy that specifically targets one of your cancer biomarkers. Targeted therapies act like puzzle pieces, fitting together inside your body with specific genes or proteins. This keeps those genes or proteins from helping your cancer grow.
In addition to helping choose targeted therapies, biomarkers in precision medicine can be used to:
- To make a prediction about your risk of developing cancer.
- To understand the molecular makeup of your cancer, and how it changes over time.
- To judge how well your body would respond to a specific treatment.
- To look for early signs of how well your body responds to a specific treatment.
- To get a sense of how quickly your cancer might grow or spread.