Tackling the Ticking Treatment Clock
Genomic and proteomic testing at the point of diagnosis can speed up treatment decisions for cancer patients
Pathologists know that the longer a diagnosis takes, the more difficult it may be to treat disease. That’s why so many improvement efforts include words like “speed,” “efficiency” or “turnaround time.” But if you’re really seeking new ways to improve, one option to consider is introducing personalized medicine at the point of diagnosis. If a simple blood test can point the way to effective treatments and prevent time wasted on those that won’t work, why not perform it as soon as possible?
Results from a Wisconsin-based group’s recent study on blood-based genomics and proteomics in lung cancer indicate that such tests can significantly shorten the time newly diagnosed patients spend waiting for treatment (1). It’s especially relevant because non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is often detected in its advanced stages, when delays can have a significant impact on treatment outcomes. Genomic and proteomic testing can reveal specific mutations that may make tumors sensitive – or resistant – to particular treatments. Not only that, but they can provide the information within 72 hours of the blood draw, much faster than performing similar tests on biopsy samples. In the study’s sample population, the 21 percent of patients who had genomic testing at diagnosis had shorter times from consultation to treatment decision (0 days, compared with 22 days in patients who were untested) and treatment start (16 days, compared with 29 days in untested patients).
Regardless of disease stage, genomic testing provided patients and physicians with vital information for treatment selection and prognosis.
With diseases like NSCLC, where every day counts, perhaps these rapid and revealing blood tests are the way of the future.
- J Mattingley, K Oettel, “Blood-based genomic and proteomic testing for newly diagnosed lung cancer patients to facilitate rapid treatment decisions and prognostic conversations”, Chest, 150, 721A (2016).
While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.