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Bespoke (i.e, Customized) Cancer Treatment; Cancer "Cures" and the Media

Posted Apr 28 2013 12:00am

Patients with cancer need to seek the most sophisticated care that they can obtain these days, which is usually found in cancer centers and academic hospitals (see: Patients with a Cancer Should Seek Treatment in Cancer Hospitals ). Not only is treatment in such centers usually state-of-the-art but they also provide ready access to the best diagnostic tests including genomic analysis of both the patient and the tumor. They also provide ready access to controlled clinical trials where new drugs are being evaluated. Here's an excerpt from a recent article about how cancer centers are racing to map patients' genes with a interesting comments included about cancer and the media (see:  Cancer Centers Racing to Map Patients’ Genes ):

...Kieran P. Holohan [is], a 45-year-old lawyer who received a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia in 2009. After his chemotherapy and the disease’s remission, his original doctor pushed him to have a bone-marrow transplant to prolong the remission. A friend from his rugby club, a geneticist, told him that “this has a lot to do with chromosomes,” he recalled, and sent him to a doctor at Weill Cornell, Gail J. Roboz. A relatively new laboratory test found that Mr. Holohan’s leukemia had a mutation that meant that his chances of survival would not necessarily improve with the risky transplant. So he opted for more chemotherapy, and his cancer is still in remission.“They didn’t go with a suit off the rack,” he said. “This was bespoke medicine .” His doctor is more cautious. “Unfortunately, cancer is cured three times a day in the media,” she said. But that does not mean that there might not be truly customized treatments for cancer 10 years down the line, she said.

For me, this quote was doubling interesting based on the following:

  • I have been tracking the various terms that have evolved over the past five years to describe the process by which a genomic profile of both a cancer patient and his tumor are characterized in order to select the most effective drug therapy. Such terms include personalized medicine, targeted therapy, precision medicine, and customized treatment. We can now add to the list bespoke medicine after the British term for a custom-made suit.
  • I also very much like the quote above: cancer is cured three times a day in the media. This is unfortunately true and a result of over-eager journalists reporting on a cancer therapy stories and oncologists and pathologists who are being interviewed and eager to trumpet their latest therapeutic and diagnostics successes.
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