The Future of Colorectal Cancer Care is Precision Medicine

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Doctors and researchers are abuzz about the field of precision medicine as it alters the landscape of cancer care. Precision medicine, and knowledge about tumor changes known as biomarkers, is already having life-saving impacts. In response, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance (Alliance) today launched its Personalized Biomarker Patient Education Campaign to empower patients and caregivers with information about how precision treatment planning in colorectal cancer through biomarker testing can help improve survival.

Biomarker testing analyzes the genetic makeup of a patient’s tumor. Test results provide patients and their medical teams with important information about what kind of treatment could work best for the patient—hence the term “precision medicine.”

“Until recently, the standard of care for colorectal cancer was essentially a one-size-fits-all approach, with surgery followed by chemotherapy and possibly radiation,” said Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Alliance. “Precision medicine, and biomarker testing specifically, opens the door to personalized treatments that will change outcomes and save lives. This is the future of cancer care.”

Colorectal cancer patients are already benefiting from biomarker testing. Numerous pharmaceutical companies have active clinical trials aimed at identifying the most effective combination of treatments to target specific biomarkers, such as KRAS, BRAF, and MSI-H. These are the names of a few biomarkers, or tumor changes, that can be found with appropriate tumor testing.

The Alliance’s education campaign lives on its website here (https://www.ccalliance.org/colorectal-cancer-information/biomarkers) and includes detailed information about 12 commonly identified colorectal cancer biomarkers, an introduction to biomarkers, and an explanation about how the “sidedness” of a tumor—left or right—should impact treatment planning.

“Our goal is to change the landscape of care so all patients can get tested and, with their doctors, choose the best treatments,” said Andrea Goodman, Vice President of Patient & Family Support at the Alliance. “We know that making personalized treatment decisions based on biomarker tests can save lives while reducing unnecessary side effects.”

Knowledge of precision medicine and biomarkers is limited among patients. A recent Alliance survey of young-onset colorectal cancer patients and survivors showed that only 54% received biomarker testing before treatment and 21% never completed testing.

The Alliance’s Personalized Biomarker Patient Education Campaign is made possible with support from Amgen, Pfizer Oncology, Merck, Genentech, and Foundation Medicine.

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