Why a perfect storm could drive increased personalisation of patient care

Marcel Proust, the renowned French novelist, is credited with saying: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” This is a sentiment that neatly sums up what is happening in cancer research and drug development, particularly with approaches such as cancer immunotherapy, right now.

The traditional approach to cancer treatment has been for physicians to use broad-brush, one-size-fits-all strategies to treat a particular type of cancer, such as lung cancer. In the late 90s, strong progress was made in using specific diagnostic tests to identify subsets of patients – for example, those with a specific type of breast cancer – and tailor treatment to that particular type of tumour.  

This has proven highly successful for many patients, but unfortunately there are still many patients who do not benefit from these approaches.

Today, scientists, researchers and doctors are looking at cancer, its diagnosis and its treatment with new eyes. In fact, it could be said that we are heading towards a “perfect storm” of progress that offers the potential for changes of such magnitude that the world of cancer is entering a new and significant phase, where treatment is personalised even further.

There is a quiet confidence amongst scientists and researchers at Roche, and around the world, that together, we are on the cusp of a new era that could deliver more individualised treatment and better outcomes for cancer patients than ever before.
Thomas Buechele, Head of Global Medical Affairs Hematology and Oncology.

Here we take a deeper look at some of the advances and trends that are collectively driving this quantum shift in personalised patient care, and what they could mean for cancer patients.

The evolution of personalised patient care

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Where cancer was once just defined by where it was located in the body, now it is understood that one cancer can have many different subtypes. This insight has evolved through our increased knowledge and understanding of the complexities of tumour biology and immunology, leading to a change in the way cancers are screened, diagnosed and treated. The aim now is to use this knowledge to help develop and drive treatment that is individualised to each patient’s disease and set of circumstances.

Big data at the centre of personalising patient care

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Recent technological advances mean that the quality and volume of meaningful data generated are increasing exponentially. These data comes from a variety of sources including traditional clinical trials, advanced diagnostics (i.e. comprehensive genomic profiling and molecular information) and real-world data. Having access to more data on disease behaviour from patients over time will lead to better insights and more efficient R&D, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.

More informed and better clinical decisions for truly individualised care

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Alongside the availability of new data sources are new technologies in advanced diagnostics and clinical decision making. These are helping physicians to identify the best clinical trials or treatment options for their patients, based on insights into a more comprehensive disease profile.

In the future, researchers and physicians will also have access to a comprehensive database of clinical literature, medical guidelines and a massive library of real-world data that will help to identify the best treatment or study plan for each patient given their unique cancer profile.

Looking at cancer with ‘new eyes’ has been made possible by the marriage of data, technology and our ability to draw fresh insights from them. This has many potential benefits, the most important of which is that one day we may be able to give patients truly individualised care that is tailored to their specific needs, giving them the best possible health outcome.

The confluence of new treatments, sophisticated diagnostics and advanced technologies are accelerating progress in personalised healthcare, today and into the future. Roche, as the world’s largest biotech company, and a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, is in a great position to navigate this ‘perfect storm’.

Tags: Personalised Healthcare