This special issue of CONQUER magazine is focused on very innovative diagnostic tests that involve biomarkers associated with cancer. For many past decades we have provided the same types of treatments for patients with cancer, basing the treatments on the type of cancer the patient had, and where it was in the body, such as lung cancer or breast cancer.
However, about 2 decades ago, we started to learn through laboratory research that there are many specific biologic features (or markers) that cancer cells have that can inform us about what types of treatments are needed for the different markers on the cancer cells. This resulted, for example, in the creation of new targeted therapies, which are designed to target some of these specific biologic features that can appear in some people with cancer.
Moving fast ahead to these days, and we are making major breakthroughs in cancer therapies that have never happened before. We are able to study the DNA of a specific type of cancer cells and learn what its biomarkers are, using different types of genetic or biomarker testing.
You may be familiar with the term “genetic testing,” which looks for specific genes with abnormalities that can be inherited from family members or develop for no known reason. Well, looking at the biomarkers of the cancer cells takes us to a new level of understanding that did not exist before, and, in turn, is resulting in the development of innovative therapies.
These therapies allow patients with cancer to live longer than ever before, often by many years. We have gone far past the poison, slash, and burn treatments that were the mainstays for decades, and even for centuries in some cases.
This special issue of CONQUER magazine will educate you about biomarkers, what they are, how they work, and what lies ahead in the areas of some specific types of cancers that have these unique genetic mutations, gene alterations, and other biomarkers. Some of these cancers are rare, such as cholangiocarcinoma or gallbladder cancer; other cancers are much more common, such as breast cancer or lung cancer.
Patients with cancer have different biomarkers related to their unique type of cancer, and within those types are more specific cancer cells that aid us today in providing treatments that are no longer “general treatments” but represent what is now known as “precision medicine.” Precision medicine means treating the unique features of the specific cancer based on the biomarkers that may be found in that disease.
This is a very exciting step in the field of cancer research, and we hope that these articles educate you in a way that you can begin a dialogue with your oncologist, to ask the right questions and to find out what types of tests can be done on your cancer cells that will result in the best targeted therapies that will lead to longer survival.