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Student JAMA
April 7, 2004

Molecular Technologies for Personalized Cancer Management

JAMA. 2004;291(13):1644-1645. doi:10.1001/jama.291.13.1644

Cancer is one of the most significant causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States, accounting for nearly a quarter of all deaths in 2003.1 Despite advances in understanding the etiology of cancer, its clinical management remains challenging. Many cancers are detected at advanced stages, when invasion of surrounding tissues and metastasis to distant sites have already occurred, rendering standard treatment modes relatively ineffective. Patients whose tumors are classified at similar stages often demonstrate variable clinical outcomes, making it difficult to accurately assess prognosis, select appropriate interventions, and communicate disease severity to patients. Standard treatment modes including chemotherapy and radiotherapy have consistent toxicities, but do not benefit all patients. An effort is under way to translate advances in molecular biology, bioinformatics, and computing into tools that may improve the diagnosis, staging, and treatment of patients with cancer.2 These tools range from tests that evaluate single genes for unique interindividual differences to chips that profile the expression of entire sets of genes or proteins. These emerging genomic and proteomic technologies may help to individualize and improve the clinical management of cancer.