For years, patients were treated with a “one size fits all” approach based solely on the organ where the cancer originated. For example, all lung cancers were treated the same way.
Today, we understand that, like people, cancers are genetically very different from one to the next.
Thanks to the genomic revolution, we have learned that cancer is caused by a diverse array of genetic mutations and dysfunctional biological pathways. This understanding has led to a more precise way to treat cancer that is more specific for the tumor cell so that these new therapies are less toxic and result in greater benefit.
Tens, even hundreds of different genetic mutations are present in solid tumors such as lung cancer, and blood cancers such as lymphomas. But not all mutations result in tumor growth and progression.
Some are drivers of disease while others are simply passengers.
Based on our improved understanding of cancer biology and with more routine genomic analysis of individual tumors at medical centers, physicians can now pinpoint the patients with the driver mutations -- the mutations which cause cancer to grow out of control.
Targeted oncology defines and treats cancer as a genetic disease. This approach is dependent on finding the driver mutations that are responsible for cancer progression, developing drugs that block those targets, and applying genomic tests to find and treat the patients with those driver mutations. Sometimes referred to as precision medicine, targeted oncology drugs on the market today have demonstrated significantly better patient outcomes in smaller, genetically-defined patient groups compared to traditional chemotherapy focused on broader patient populations.