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ASCO names molecular profiling of gastrointestinal cancer “Advance of the Year”
Molecular profiling in gastrointestinal (GI) cancer has been named by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) its Advance of the Year. Significant improvements in GI cancers treatment and patient outcomes have come from the application of molecular testing of patients’ tumours. ASCO’s annual Clinical Cancer Advances report highlighted other advances such as progress in targeted therapies for early-stage and difficult-to-treat cancers, the use of biomarker-driven therapies to provide more personalized treatment for lung, colorectal, and gastric cancers, and the use of combination therapies to increase survival without increasing toxicity.
For the treatment of GI cancers, which makes up 26% of the global cancer incidence and 35% of all cancer-related deaths, standard treatments include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Some patients may respond well to these treatments, while others may show very poor response rates. These differences among patient response have driven research that explores genetic mutations and other molecular features of tumours to enable treatment with targeted therapies, which minimize toxicity and prolong survival.
The advent of molecular profiling tools such as next-generation sequencing (NGS) enable clinicians to identify each patient’s unique “molecular signature”. This facilitates the selection of treatments that the patient is most likely to benefit from, eliminating the need for trial and error.
The ASCO report noted that despite the improvements in patient outcomes, these survival gains are not felt across patient groups. Black patients, patients that live in rural areas, and patients of lower socioeconomic status still experience poorer disease outcomes. This fact underlines the importance of prioritizing a multimodal approach to reducing health barriers that inhibit underserved populations from accessing optimal cancer care. The report calls for a collective effort from patients, caregivers, policy leaders, pharmaceutical organizations and advocacy groups to develop targeted strategies for ensuring all patients have equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the advances in cancer research.
Take away message:
Molecular profiling in gastrointestinal cancers has been named ASCO’s Advance of the Year. Molecular profiling of patients’ tumours has led to significant survival improvements in patient outcomes. These improvements, however, have not been felt equally by all patient groups. This underlines the importance of more targeted strategies for ensuring that all patients have equal opportunity to benefit from advances in cancer research.