Molecular Profiling

Producing a more informative ‘picture’ of a tumor

Dr. Kamel-ReidOncologists have suspected for some time that a percentage (potentially a high percentage!) of their cancer patients are not benefitting from the drug therapy they are receiving. Drug therapy for all lung cancer patients or for all colon cancer patients has been similar, if not identical, until the last decade. Thanks to hundreds of clinical studies, we have had some good success in segmenting the various types of cancer more specifically as we identify ‘biomarkers’ or mutations that distinguish one cancer from another. Today we have identified a number of markers—EGFR, KRAS, HER2—to name a few, and physicians now know that the absence or presence of the markers is highly indicative of a patient’s likelihood of responding to specific drug therapies.

Dr. Suzanne Kamel-Reid is the Head of Laboratory Genetics and Director of Molecular Diagnostics at University Health Network (which includes The Princess Margaret), and she explains, “While the list of reliable markers is fairly small today, we expect considerable growth in this area over the next decade as more effective technology is now available to efficiently produce a detailed molecular profile of a tumor.” Knowing the biomarkers and mutations in each tumor—and building our database of understanding of which drugs work best for which mutation—means cancer therapy will continue to get more personalized and more effective.