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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Oncological Advances

Cancer is constantly evolving. It initiates, spreads, and evades therapies. Fortunately, oncology has always been a field of innovation where methods to detect, diagnose, and treat cancer are continuously advancing. In fact, mortality rates across the US and Europe are dropping, with nearly 5 million more US citizens projected to survive cancer in 2026 than in 2016, according to the National Cancer Institute (1). These increases in survival are, in part, due to greater rates of early detection, stemming from innovative imaging techniques and preventative measures, such as smoking cessation and vaccines against cancer-causing viruses. Additionally, the identification of tumour suppressors and oncogenes has aided in better drug development, and matching patients to targeted therapies based on tumour genetics has led to improved survival rates.

Today’s wave of innovation centres around technology and Big Data. Big Data represents a body of information that is too large and too complex to be analysed by traditional data processing software. In the medical field, Big Data comes in the form of electronic health records, genetic and genomic sequencing, and an ever-increasing body of medical literature. Big Data and technology go hand-in-hand, as equipment is being developed to both generate and analyse Big Data. With Big Data’s introduction, the field of oncology is adding new technology to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment options for patients. Some outstanding innovations are discussed in this article.

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS)

NGS is high-throughput sequencing that enables entire genomes, exomes, and cancer-relevant gene panels to be sequenced at an unprecedented rate for an increasingly affordable price. NGS is now routinely used to facilitate precision cancer therapy: the practice of matching a therapy to a patient based on the specific molecular or clinical characteristics of the individual. New initiatives are being undertaken to sequence the entire genome of large populations (eg, 100,000 Genomes Project, All of Us, and Médecine Génomique 2025). Such projects are expected to reveal associations useful for cancer prevention, differential diagnoses, and drug development. Pharmacogenomics is another primary objective with such large-scale studies certain to define variants associated with response and others with resistance to therapy. However, large-scale sequencing alone is not enough.

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Dr Kathryn D Bungartz is a Principal Scientist at precision medicine company, N-of-One. Prior to joining the company, Kathryn enjoyed an international scientific career in the field of extracellular matrix, and later served as Content Editor of the American Journal of Human Genetics. Stations of her career include the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, Germany, The University of Pennsylvania, US, and Harvard University, US. Kathryn currently resides in Europe part-time, where she heads a course in medical writing.
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