UW-OncoPlex represents a significant milestone in the development of Precision Medicine. Until recently, all patients with a particular type of cancer—for example, lymphoma or breast cancer—would most likely be treated with a similar regimen. The initial treatment would be the one with the best odds of success for the patient population as a whole. If the first treatment didn’t work, oncologists would move on to the next best option, again based on the percentages.
Choose the Best Treatment First
UW-OncoPlex introduces a more precise way of choosing the most effective treatment for many patients. By sequencing the DNA of the patient’s tumor, UW-OncoPlex can determine whether a characteristic driver mutation is causing the disease. If so, the oncologist can administer the most effective treatment as the first therapeutic option.
UW-OncoPlex provides numerous benefits. It spares the patient from the physical and emotional wear and tear of undergoing treatment that doesn’t work or, in some cases, may actually be harmful. The time factor is important as well. Cancer left untreated tends to grow, spread, and metastasize to other kinds of tissue. By attacking it with an effective agent right away, there’s a better chance of containing the cancer and forcing it into remission.
A Boon for Patients with Rare Cancers
This is particularly true in the case of patients with rare forms of cancer or tumor types. If a treatment were known to be effective in only four percent of patients, it traditionally would have been used only as a last resort. But with the availability of UW-OncoPlex, statistics for the entire patient population are irrelevant. What matters is how a patient with a particular genetic variant will respond. This gives doctors a scientific basis for prescribing a “low odds” therapy as the first line of treatment—for individual patients.
More Durable with Fewer Side Effects
In addition, because UW-OncoPlex is a genetic test, the remedies it indicates tend to be small-molecule inhibitor therapies, which work on the biomolecular pathways controlled by a particular gene. Thus, patients whose cancer can be diagnosed with UW-OncoPlex also tend to enjoy the benefits of targeted therapies. These include fewer adverse side effects, because these drugs act on specific sites on tumor cells, leaving normal healthy tissue unaffected.
The only downside is that currently UW-OncoPlex can only identify driver mutations with available treatments for a minority of the cases our doctors see in the clinic. However, the diagnostic power of UW-OncoPlex will continually increase with the growth in both our knowledge of cancer genetics and the number of immunotherapy agents in development.