I’ve received an email asking to explain the concept of personalized medicine in more detail, so here goes…
personalized medicine (n): “The tailoring of medical treatments to individual characteristics of each patient. It aims to achieve optimal medical outcomes by helping physicians & patients choose the disease management approaches likely to work best in the context of a patient’s genetic & environmental profile.” (source: Personalized Medicine Coalition)
Many experts believe over the next few decades, our medical system, and more specifically cancer care, will be tailored to each individual patient. These experts also believe that personalized medicine will change the way drugs are developed and medicine is prescribed.
Think about it… every person on the planet is uniquely different- from our DNA towhat we eat to our exposure to environmental factors and even to the amount of stress we experience. Since each person is unique, it’s easy to see how each person’s cancer can have unique characteristics known as a unique molecular profile. This explains how two people with the exact same cancer can respond very differently to the exact same regimen.
Although personalized medicine is still considered a novel approach to cancer care, it is already making significant inroads into how some doctors approach disease. According to the Personalized Medicine Coalition, “personalized medicine is already having an impact on how patients are treated. Molecular testing is being used to identify those breast cancer & colon cancer patients likely to benefit from new treatments, and newly diagnosed patients with early stage invasive breast cancer can now be tested for the likelihood of recurrence.”
At this time in the year 2011, the systems necessary to support personalized care are not widely available. It can be hard to find doctors who are able to implement such leading-edge technology and it can be quite expensive. Often times insurance may not cover the expenses related to personalized testing, but for us, they at least covered the drugs (after 2 appeals), the CAT scans & MRIs, the surgeries & any hospital bills which are big ticket items.
We got lucky…in a sense. We did find a way to take a personalized approach to Alan’s very rare & unique cancer with Champions Oncology and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it extended Alan’s life by 6-7 months. I just wish I had really understood that this option existed earlier in our cancer journey. Because sometimes, it’s not about “curing” but about “extending life”…New medical advancements are being made all the time. The key is to be alive when the next advancement that will help you is discovered.