Even when they are the same cancer, such as breast cancer, tumors can vary significantly from person to person. To treat cancer, precision oncology focuses on the unique genetic traits of a tumor. Existing therapies can be “tailored” in this way to reduce side effects and the expense of expensive treatments. This exemplifies how cancer will be treated in the future.
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Dr. Dilara Akhoundova, medical oncologist at Bern University Hospital and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bern, and Prof. Mark A. Rubin, director of the Department of Biomedical Research (DBMR) and the Bern Center for Precision Medicine ( BCPM), have summarized and reviewed the most recent advances in multi-omic tumor profiling. In their review, published in the leading journal Cancer Cell, they provide a critical look at the current state of translational validation of the reviewed technologies and discuss their potential for integration into precision treatment. “These new technologies lead us to a deeper understanding of tumors than has ever been seen before. It is as if with the standard tools they told us that Switzerland is a country with a higher altitude than Holland; With these new technologies, we can see the three-dimensional landscape of mountains, valleys and lakes,” says Mark A. Rubin, Director of the Bern Center for Precision Medicine.
Integrate new technologies in the clinic as quickly as possible
However, there are still a number of hurdles to overcome before the latest technologies can be used in the clinic: among other things, they still need to be standardized or require new infrastructures in clinics due to the evaluation of a large volume of data. or regulatory approval.
One of the latest promising technologies in precision oncology is liquid biopsy, which makes it possible to provide information about the type of cancer in patients more quickly and minimally invasively through a blood test. Especially in the case of tumors located deep in the body, such as in the lungs or pancreas, this requires invasive procedures, sometimes under general anesthesia. Many technologies such as liquid biopsy are being used in translational and clinical cancer research. Its clinical potential is already very high; they still require, in some cases, an additional method that increases the “measurement precision” for certain samples. Other innovations are still in their infancy and need to be clinically validated to see if they can achieve their goal.
Bern initiatives for cancer research in Switzerland
The advancement and implementation of new and cutting-edge technologies in precision medicine is a crucial focus of BCPM. Translational cancer research projects led by BCPM investigators, such as those led by Prof. Mark A. Rubin, Prof. Marianna Kruithof-De Julio, and Prof. Sven Rottenberg, as well as close collaboration with clinical oncologists at University Hospital Bern and other Swiss institutions are essential to further advance precision oncology and bring novel technologies closer to patients. “In our review, we consider how these new approaches can be translated into tests that can better predict responses to tumor therapies in patients,” says Dilara Akhoundova, lead author of the study.
Another important Bern precision oncology initiative is the Swiss Cancer Oncology and Immunology Advances Platform (SOCIBP), which aims to establish a common genomic “language” for Swiss cancer research: molecular tumor data will be presented and will be shared in an understandable way, and genomic tests throughout Switzerland will be standardized. The project is funded by the Swiss Network for Personalized Health (SPHN), a federal initiative. “One of our current translational projects focuses on the standardization and clinical validation of genomic tests that assess DNA repair in prostate cancer and other solid tumors,” explains Rubin. The general objective of the project is to develop more reliable predictive biomarkers that allow precision oncological treatment for tumors that harbor defects in DNA repair.