There’s a paradigm shift taking place in the world of cancer treatment. Experts are moving away from an organ-focused approach to treatment, like using radiation to treat the specific area affected by cancer. Instead, they’re looking at genomic sequencing.
Genomics is the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of an individual’s genes. Genomics allows experts to examine DNA to determine an individual’s cancer risk through genomic sequencing. This means that oncologists can provide more individualized treatment options for patients using precision medicine.
How can cancer risk be determined through genomic sequencing?
Parents pass along many traits to their children, such as hair and eye color. Unfortunately, the risk of developing certain types of cancer can also pass along. By examining DNA, experts can identify certain changes in a person’s DNA known for increasing their risk of developing various types of cancer. However, not all cancers pass genetically. Only five to ten percent of all cancers are believed to have an inherited gene mutation. It is important to note that no test can provide exact answers about a person’s inherited cancer risk. Genetic testing can tell whether a specific genetic mutation exists in the DNA. However, it cannot tell whether an individual will develop the disease associated with that mutation later in life or not.
What is the benefit of genomic sequencing?
Genomic sequencing cannot prevent a cancer diagnosis but can help identify cancer-related DNA mutations. This means an individual can implement preventive measures. These measures could include making healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, ceasing smoking, or reducing alcohol consumption. Depending on the type of mutation, medications may be available to reduce one’s risk of developing cancer. Similarly, genomic sequencing may highlight the option of surgery to remove an organ or gland to prevent cancer from forming or promote undergoing more health screenings regularly.
Who should utilize genomic sequencing?
Experts typically only recommend genetic sequencing for patients whose families have a history of certain cancers or patterns of cancer. Doctors may order genetic testing for people that have:
- Multiple first-degree relatives with cancer diagnoses;
- Numerous relatives who have been diagnosed with same cancer on one side of the family;
- A family history of cancers linked to a single gene mutation, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or pancreatic cancer;
- Family member(s) who has been diagnosed with more than one type of cancer;
- Family member(s) who has been diagnosed with cancer at a younger age than typically seen for that cancer, such as colon cancer;
- Close relatives who have been diagnosed with cancers linked to rare hereditary cancer syndromes, such as Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC), Cowden Syndrome, Lynch Syndrome; or
- Family member(s) has been diagnosed with rare cancer, such as breast cancer in a male.
Can we expect more research in genomic sequencing?
AFCR is committed to advancing genomic research and its potential to be the future of developing treatment plans for cancer patients. As such, AFCR funded the world-renowned researchers paving the way in genomic research, such as establishing breast and ovarian cancer gene mutation analysis systems for the Asian population.