Chemotherapy is one of the most widely used mesothelioma treatment options. These medications target the DNA and other parts of cancer cells in order to make it more difficult for them to thrive and grow. Unfortunately, these drugs sometimes affect healthy cells in addition to diseased ones. When this happens, patients can start to feel side effects such as gastrointestinal problems and fatigue. Such complications may be avoided if doctors have a more effective system that allows them to tailor the medications they prescribe to individual patients.
At Mesothelioma Circle, we love sharing stories about personalized medicine. This is the future in healthcare, and countless individuals with lung cancer and mesothelioma could live a higher quality of life because they receive drugs that are best suited for them.
Medicine will be based on your genes
Traditionally, doctors decide on what medications to administer based on the disease that you have. However, just because a drug is effective in treating an illness does not mean that you and other patients will have the same reaction to it. In fact, some patients may even experience bad side effects.
These different responses to medications are mediated in part by your genes, which dictate how your cells interact with their environment. Genes also control how cancer develops.
With these two concepts in mind, scientists are figuring out how to personalize medicine in a way that tailors treatments to patients’ genes. This way, doctors can target cancerous growths while minimizing the occurrence of side effects in patients.
Latest development looks at proteins
Recently, researchers from the University of Michigan took a narrower approach to personalized medicine by screening for the presence of kinases, a type of interactive protein in cells, rather than analyzing the whole DNA sequence.
“We have a small but effective inventory of ‘druggable’ mutations that we know play a role in cancer. As we are doing more sequencing, we’re coming to realize just how small that inventory is. On the one hand, it’s a limitation. On the other hand, there are numerous oncogenic kinases, and there are a lot of kinase inhibitors. Our goal is to determine how to match more of these therapies with the right patients,” said senior study author Chandan Kumar-Sinha, Ph.D.
Kumar-Sinha and the research team made this discovery after looking at the RNA sequences of cancerous tissue samples and comparing them to those of healthy samples. They found that the diseased tissues were more likely to have an abnormal abundance of certain kinases. This is important because there are several medications that target kinases.
The future of medicine is looking bright
There are several other examples of how personalized medicine can improve the care of patients diagnosed with asbestos-induced cancers. One team of scientists in Boston found that the expression of four separate genes may help determine whether a mesothelioma patient can benefit from surgery. This could be valuable in making medical decisions because the finding may have an impact on patients’ longevity.
However, a good deal of this research is conducted with the help of tissue samples. The real-world impact of these findings in the clinic still have to be evaluated in actual patients.
The federal government is taking a prominent interest in personalized medicine. The Recovery Act includes $4.8 million earmarked for promoting proteomics research, which is medicine that is based on the proteins in the cells of patients.