The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a sub-section of the government’s National Institutes of Health, and serves as one of the premier global sources for cancer research and funding. Among the organization’s many goals, is a commitment to making advances in personalized cancer treatment.
Personalized cancer treatment involves looking for specific biomarkers within a patient’s cancer cells that indicate that a particular type of therapy may or may not be beneficial. While a number of personalized care procedures have already been approved for public use, the NCI is intent on expanding the scope of these potentially life-saving procedures.
In accordance with this goal, the NCI has instituted a number of programs to enhance personalized medicine and help bring customizable therapy solutions to market. For example, the Cancer Genome Atlas is a program dedicated to identifying and cataloguing all genetic mutations associated with the growth of cancer cells. By identifying these mutations, it is hoped that targeted drugs can be manufactured to effectively switch driver mutations “off” to either kill cancer cells directly, or make them more susceptible to other forms of cancer treatment.
Genetic mapping of cancer cells has the potential to improve cancer research in a number of ways. These include:
Speeding up the screening process for identifying causative gene mutations
Narrowing focus for new drug development
Bringing effective drugs to market sooner
Improving cancer survival rates
Indirectly, NCI is also working towards improving cancer care through the linkage of electronic health records. An initiative to provide the same level of health care to all Americans, regardless of finances or location, is also intended to deliver the latest cancer care to a broader group of individuals. This patient-centric philosophy is viewed as an action-oriented viewpoint that spurs cancer research with the benefit of providing the most good for the largest pool of individuals possible.