Molecular structure of cancer is decoded

Last updated date: 18-Jul-2021

Acibadem Maslak HospitalCancerGeneral HealthOncology
Acibadem Maslak Hospital

4 mins read

Personalized treatments that use medications specific for the cancerous cell are the only secret of high success in treatment of cancer.

Treatment is planned according to genetic structure of cancer

Although a single disease is mentioned when one speaks about cancer, there are more than 200 types of cancer. Molecular structure is unique for each type of cancer. Therefore, the secret of success lies in patient- and mutation-specific treatments. Here, tissue and liquid biopsies play a very important role. Personalized treatments can be planned by identifying the genetic changes in cancer and developing targeted treatments for such changes.


Cancer is detected in every 14 million people

Statistical data suggests that approximately 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year worldwide. This figure increases in direct proportion to growth and aging of the population. Based on this acceleration, it is estimated that 19.3 million people will be diagnosed with cancer for the first time in 2025. However, cancer is the second most common cause of death following cardiovascular diseases and projections estimate that cancer will take the first row two decades later.

Blood tests can identify mutations

Definition of cancer is as follows: uncontrolled division of cells secondary cumulative damage caused by certain changes (mutation) in healthy cells. Genetic transmission is not the case for various chemicals, certain viruses or all genetic changes. However, it is possible to identify the changes that are genetically transmitted (mutations) and caused by environmental factors. On the other hand, very significant advancements are, recently, made in treatment of cancer. Thanks to the resultant data, cancer is no longer a disease that is treated through a single perspective. The success rate is low for treatments that are planned according to the origin organ and pathological type, while patient- and tumor-specific treatments not only eliminate deaths, but they also provide survival benefit in the last decade. The ability to decode molecular structure of cancer is the most important element that allowed this miraculous victory.

Both tissue biopsies and the liquid biopsy that has been used in last 2 to 3 years can detect genetic changes and mutations at cellular level. Personalized treatments can be planned through targeted therapies that are developed to cope with such changes. Moreover, blood tests also allow us determine whether the patient is a good candidate for immunotherapy, if a tissue biopsy is not the case due to the tumor tissue.

Stronger effect, fewer side effects

Personalized treatments are successfully used worldwide and in our country in the last decade and they offer more opportunities, as they are potent and have fewer side effects. Molecular changes can be detected even in same type of cancer and therefore, the response to treatments may also vary. Liquid biopsy reveals out genetic features of the patients and the tumor to help selection of best medicine for the disease. Moreover, results of more than 50 genetic changes are reported, as the cancerous cell is examined at molecular level. Thus, a treatment with high efficiency can be decided, as a medicine is selected in line with the genetic change(s) in the cancerous cell. Accordingly, it is possible to start the right patient on right treatment at right time.

Effects of treatment are foreseeable

International guidelines also advise molecular tests especially for lung cancer. It is possible to foresee the prognosis of diseases and potential responses to the treatment, when features of the tumor are determined in advance. Best treatment is selected in line with the results. Accordingly, side effect profile is reduced by eliminating unnecessary use of ineffective medicines along with reduction in economic burden.

Positive developments

We will have the opportunity to detect the course of disease early through serial blood tests both at diagnosis and during treatment in order to determine efficiency and resistance to treatment for everybody in the future. Drug modifications can be considered, if blood tests point to other mutations (T790M) when resistance develops against targeted therapy in patients with EGFR mutation in lung cancer. This example shall apply to other types of cancer in the near future.

Cancer is diagnosed in 97 thousand men, 62 thousand women every year

Mean incidence of cancer is 215.1/100.000 people for both men and women in our country. According to cancer statistics, approximately 159 thousand new cancer cases are detected every year in our country. Of these new cases, 97 thousand are men and 62 thousand are women. Following reasons are accused for the increase in incidence of cancer: increased proportion of elderly people in general population due to gain in life expectancy at birth; increased smoking and tobacco product use; high incidence of obesity; and ever increasing exposure to environmental and occupational cancer factors. Therefore, the most effective approach is to take necessary measures through increasing the awareness in fighting against the cancer.


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