Oncology Precision Medicine: A Symphony of Hope for Cancer Patients

Cancer has been recognized as one of the life-threatening diseases, accounting for an alarming global prevalence rate of approximately 20 million new cases and 10 million fatalities. According to the World Health Organization, the global burden for cancer is likely to witness a 60% increase by the end of 2040. Currently, several conventional approaches, such as surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy are available for treating cancer. However, these approaches are incompetent for dealing with intrinsic carcinogenic genetic abnormalities. This is due to the fact that these irregularities are unique to each individual patient and require a personalized approach to treatment. This resulted in the discovery of an individualized concept of treatment known as oncology precision medicine which primarily utilizes the patient’s genomic information to provide gene-targeted diagnostics and therapeutics.

What is Oncology Precision Medicine?

Oncology precision medicine, also referred to as precision oncology or personalized medicine in oncology, employs genetic testing to determine the genomic characteristics of the patient’s cancerous tumor and customizes the best-suited treatment option. The method correlates the information from the diagnostic test with the medical records of the patient in order to identify the drug that is to be prescribed to the patient admitted in the precision cancer centers. Further, it is worth mentioning that these drugs have demonstrated a high success rate in different oncological conditions such as breast cancer and lung cancer. Owing to this, regulatory authorities, such as the US FDA are encouraging more research and development initiatives in the domain of oncology precision medicine. In fact, in 2022, more than ten personalized medicines were approved by the US FDA; of these approved drugs, seven of them were personalized medicine in oncology. Additionally, a new oncology precision medicine has recently been approved for patients suffering from uveal melanoma, a rare eye cancer expressing glycoprotein-100 (Gp-100) cell surface marker.

Advantages Associated with Precision Medicines

The advancement of precision medicine in the field of oncology has created milestones in the history of cancer care and has proven to be one of the most successful treatment options.

The following figure presents the significant advantages offered by oncology precision medicine.

Advantages of Oncology Precision Medicine
  1. Risk Assessment: Individuals with a family history of certain types of cancer are more likely to be at risk of inheriting the condition. In such cases, oncology precision medicine aids individuals to take genetic testing and become aware of the associated risk.
  2. Early Diagnosis: Prior screening for cancer can help in detection of the disease at an early stage, providing a much better chance of successful treatment. Further, this approach allows developing a detailed cancer prognosis to predict the outcome of the selected treatment and determine the progression of cancer.
  3. High Response Rate: Precision medicines have demonstrated a high response rate (>75%) in patients diagnosed with cancer. Such exceptional results have encouraged precision medicine oncology companies to enhance their research and development efforts in identifying novel drugs to target specific cancer-driver genetic mutations. Notably, seven of the top ten global best-selling anti-cancer drugs are precision medicines, demonstrating a substantial growth of the market.
  4. Reduced Side Effects: Oncology precision medicines selectively identifies the biomarkers expressed on the surface of cancerous cells and particularly targets genes mutated by cancer. This minimizes the risk of affecting the non-cancerous cells and eventually mitigates the adverse effects associated with cancer treatment.

Challenges Associated with Oncology Precision Medicines

Although oncology precision medicine has demonstrated beneficial outcomes, the concept still faces certain challenges which is hindering the adoption of these drugs in clinical settings.

The following figure presents the challenges associated with oncology precision medicine.

Challenges of Oncology Precision Medicines
  1. Data Handling: Genomic data essential for the implementation of precision medicine is highly sensitive and personal. Such confidential information is often vulnerable to the risk of unauthorized access and faces threats of privacy breaches, identity theft and misuse of information.
  2. Inadequate technologies: Artificial intelligence has emerged as an effective means in evaluating genomic data; however, it renders its own challenges such as lack of technical knowledge and production of inaccurate results.
  3. Clonal Heterogeneity: The application of oncology precision medicine relies on the accurate molecular characterization of individual patients’ tumor profile at the time of treatment initiation. However, the molecular profiles of the tumor are dynamic and targeting the dominant clone at times encourages the emergence of a subclone resulting in the development of treatment-resistance.
  4. Limited Biomarker Identification: A fundamental element of precision medicine is the use of cancer biomarkers to track disease progression after treatment. However, the identification of such reliable biomarkers is challenging as it requires the collection of high-quality genomic data. As a result, there is a lack of clinically validated biomarkers that facilitate the accurate monitoring of outcomes in patients prescribed with targeted drugs.
  5. Stringent Regulatory Requirements: Regulatory compliance pose a significant barrier to oncology precision medicines owing to the stringent requirements for safety and efficacy of targeted drugs. These standards are often challenging to meet as they require rigorous clinical trials involving diverse patient populations having cancer-associated genetic mutation specific to the drug being evaluated.

Key Drivers of Oncology Precision Medicine Market

The adoption of precision medicine for the treatment of cancer is increasing due to several driving factors, resulting in the increasing potential of oncology precision medicine market over the coming years.

The following figure presents the key drivers of oncology precision medicine market.

  1. Rising Incidence of Cancer: The rise in the global cancer incidence rate is a key driving factor for the development of precision medicines for oncological disorders. According to the American Cancer Society, around two million new cases have been anticipated to be diagnosed in the US in 2023. This presented a critical need for more effective and targeted treatment to overcome the overall global burden of cancer.
  2. Growing Preference for Personalized Healthcare: Personalized healthcare is an approach wherein treatment is prescribed based on an individual’s unique genetic makeup. This concept has significantly improved the quality of life of cancer patients. The favorable outcomes associated with oncology precision medicines have increased the demand for such customized drugs and has created a surge in development of medicines based on the variability in genes, environment and lifestyle of each individual.
  3. Emergence of Companion diagnostics: Companion Diagnostics identifies genetic mutations in cancer patients and aids in recognizing the patient population that is most likely to respond to the precision medicine being evaluated in the clinical trials. The application of such tests increases the success rate of these trials while streamlining the regulatory approval for such drugs. This acts as a lucrative opportunity for the growth of the precision oncology market.

Future Perspectives

It is evident that oncology precision medicine has revolutionized the field of oncology by offering precision cancer care based on the patients’ unique genetic makeup. The growing interest of researchers and precision medicine oncology companies has enabled easy transition of precision medicine from the bench to bedside. However, due to the complex nature of the human genome, scientists are still in the early stages of decoding medical data and translating it to user-friendly information. As a result, there is an alarming need to create an information library that covers the genetic data necessary to make accurate therapeutic inferences about an individual. It is worth highlighting that at present North America holds the largest share of the oncology precision medicine market owing to its well-developed research infrastructure including top-tier academic institutions and precision cancer centers. Further, the precision oncology services have been witnessed to increase in the countries of Asia-Pacific regions as a result of the evolving research and development activity in oncology precision medicine industry in countries such as China and Japan. Although the global oncology precision medicine market appears to have a promising future, the success will be primarily determined by the efforts of drug developers to capitalize on the growth trends and meet demands of the drugs.