By Mark Winham
Chief Scientific and Operating Officer
Wamberg Genomic Advisors | Cancer Guardian
Genetic changes cause cancer.
Genetic changes to genes can disrupt the way cells function, and especially how they grow and divide. Damage in certain areas of our genes can cause cell growth and division to go out of control, resulting in a cancer.
These genetic changes can be inherited from our parents, or they can arise during our life time as we are exposed to cancer-causing agents that damage the DNA in our genes. Examples of cancer-causing agents include the chemicals in tobacco smoke, or radiation such as ultraviolet rays from the sun.
Current standards of care for treating cancer mostly employ radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, used alone or in combination. These standard of care approaches can be as damaging to healthy tissue as they are to cancerous tissue, and side-effects can be unpleasant or unbearable.
Ideally, a cancer treatment would be minimally invasive by, only targeting and destroying cancerous tissue, leaving healthy tissue unharmed. As scientists’ understanding of cancer has grown, more effective and less damaging cancer drug therapies have been developed.
A new category of drugs that are beginning to fulfill the promise of the ideal cancer treatment are the so-called targeted therapies.
Targeted cancer therapy is a special category of drugs that discerns differences between normal cells and cancer cells. These drugs are sometimes used alone, but most often are used in combination with other cancer treatments.
Targeted cancer therapy drugs can work to do the following:
- Block or turn off chemical signals that tell the cancer cell to grow and divide
- Change proteins within the cancer cells so the cells die
- Trigger your immune system to kill the cancer cells
- Carry toxins to the cancer cells to kill them, but not normal cells
Cancer Guardian’s Advanced DNA Testing of Cancer
Cancer Guardian includes advanced DNA testing of a cancer, the deep DNA sequencing of more than 300 genes associated with cancer.
This advanced DNA testing is far more comprehensive than the limited DNA testing, such as single genes or ‘hot spot’ testing, that may be accessed through standard of care. These more limited, single gene and hot-spot testing approaches run a high risk of missing important changes across a wide spectrum of cancer genes.
Cancer Guardian’s advanced DNA testing can capture and show more of the changes in the genes that caused the cancer, and/or continue to drive its growth. Understanding these changes can identify what treatment is potentially most effective in tackling a cancer. When this testing indicates that targeted therapies are a more effective option, the report will also identify individual or a combination of targeted therapy drugs to be considered as viable options for treatment.
Advanced DNA testing has been reported to identify alternative options for consideration to standard of care in half of cases tested. When used, these alternative options such as targeted therapies, have been reported in extending longevity and survival rates of cancer patients.
There are now more than 80 FDA approved targeted therapy drugs for cancer, almost half of which have been approved in just the last 3-4 years, and 2018 saw the most approvals in a single year.