Cancer Treatment: The Critical Factors
Step One: Evaluating the Molecular Biology of the Tumor Cell Population
Throughout this protocol, you will see terminology relating to the molecular aspects of the cancer cell. When we use the term molecular, we are referring to specific characteristics of cancer cells such as:
- Tumor-promoting genes (oncogenes)
- Tumor suppressor genes
- Receptors or docking sites on the cell membrane where communication with proteins occur
- Cellular differentiation—the degree of aggressiveness of the cancer cell (poorly differentiated cancer cells are more aggressive, while highly differentiated cells are less aggressive).
These individual variations—the unique biology of the cancer cell—help explain why a particular therapy may be highly effective for some cancer patients but fail others.
People typically think of their disease based on the organ it affects (eg, lung cancer or colon cancer). The problem with that rationale is not all cancers are the same, even if they affect the same organ. With the advent of advanced molecular diagnostic profiling, the specific strengths and vulnerabilities of each patient's cancer can be identified in order to design an individually tailored treatment program.
It is critically important to obtain a description of the type of cells that populate your tumor. Not only does this assist the oncologist in recommending the most effective conventional therapy, but it also helps determine what adjuvant nutritional and/or off-label drug therapies to consider. The human eye can serve to provide the most basic information about a cancer cell through the microscopic examination of the cell's general characteristics. Taking this one step further is evaluation by an immunohistochemistry test. This test detects markers of diagnostic value, on and within the cell surface, through the application of colored dye or stains. In order to perform this and other tests, it is necessary for a sample of your tumor to be sent to a specialized laboratory.
Caris Life Sciences provides a comprehensive range of customized analyses to help cancer specialists correctly identify difficult-to-diagnose tumors, establish prognosis in many cancers (including breast, prostate, and colon), and determine optimal treatment. By providing this information, Caris Life Sciences starts treatment on the right course and helps avoid unnecessary and potentially ineffective therapies. Caris Life Sciences performs more specialized analyses for cancer than any other laboratory in the world.
When a person has cancer, the physician confronts a chain of pressing questions: What type of cancer is it? Where did it originate? Which treatments are most likely to be effective? Caris Life Sciences can help clinicians with answers to many of these questions.
As far as diagnosis is concerned, many cancers defy classification by visual examination. In fact, the diagnosis of "metastatic cancer of unknown primary site" accounts for 2–6% of cancer diagnoses.1 In a majority of these difficult cases, Caris Life Sciences' medical expertise and advanced technologies lead to an accurate diagnosis.
Visual examination of tumors provides very little information about their growth rate or the type of treatment to which they will respond. Caris Life Sciences' prognostic expertise can accurately evaluate the aggressiveness of the cancer and predict the effects of therapy.
Cancers have traditionally been treated as follows: if one therapy proves ineffective, then try another until a successful therapy is found or all options are exhausted. Caris Life Sciences helps eliminate the need for this trial-and-error method by providing individualized information to help determine the optimal therapy before initiating treatment. This can save the patient time, money, and most importantly, it may provide a better opportunity for "first strike" eradication.
Caris Life Sciences provides highly sensitive patient monitoring for the follow-up care of many cancers. For example, Caris Life Sciences can determine whether certain types of lymphomas have recurred before they can be detected by any other method. The earlier tumor recurrence is detected, the greater the likelihood of therapeutic success.
Typically, within 48 hours after receiving a specimen, Caris Life Sciences returns the stained slides along with a thorough and detailed case report to a physician. Your oncologist can also consult with a member of the Caris Life Sciences staff by phone.
Contact information for Caris Life Sciences is as follows:
How to Implement Step One
Make certain your surgeon sends a specimen of your tumor to Caris Life Sciences for immunohistochemistry testing. Be sure to follow the instructions that Caris Life Sciences provides for proper shipping of the surgical specimen. You may have to pay out of pocket for this test because not all insurance plans reimburse for it. Please note that this test may not be of benefit to all cancer patients. While it provides a basis for improved treatment, not all cancers are effectively treated with current therapies.