How did the identification of genes and mutations have applicability to human cancers?
- Retroviruses were studied in the 1970s and 1980s, and these studies demonstrated how a constellation of genes was causing cancer (this research was done before we had today’s technology which can analyze all genes).
- Genes make proteins that sit as receptors and send out signals that encode proteins that transfer information.
- Detection of genes and mutations today has made possible the identification of treatments for various cancers.
- Through genetic (germline) testing and genomic testing of tissue from the cancer tumor, genes can identify the unique molecular information that makes up a person’s cancer: this is precision medicine.
- Every cancer is different at the genomic level.
- Through application of precision medicine, the doctor has more information about the genetic and molecular makeup of a patient’s cancer.
- Using genetic and molecular information, the doctor has the opportunity to select a potential treatment that will work best for specific patients’ cancers.
- As more mutations become known in cancerous tumors, scientists can develop new drugs and therapies in response to those mutations.
- Mutations vary by cancer and present complex challenges; for example, which mutation is driving the cancer and which are only passenger genes.
- Humans experience changes in mutations over their lifetimes.
- In some cancers such as lung cancer, precision medicine has produced different treatments that put the patient’s cancer into remission; however, maintaining remission is a problem.