Personalized Healthcare in oncology
Personalized healthcare focuses on the development of treatments tailored to patients with specific types of cancer. A better understanding of gene expression allows customized treatment approaches.
Personalized Healthcare—HER2-positive breast/gastric cancer
Diagnosis followed by treatment with an innovative drug is a typical example of the personalized treatment approach in the case of breast cancer and gastric cancer:
By using special diagnostic tests to determine the amount of HER2 protein in breast or gastric cancer cells, patients who will presumably respond well to an innovative drug specifically targeting the HER2 protein can be reliably identified.
Not all breast cancers are the same. Different factors can play a role in the development and growth of a tumor. HER2 is such a factor. The number of HER2 receptors, a special protein on the surface of breast cancer cells, is significantly elevated in approximately 20 percent of all breast cancer patients.
The protein causes the cells to divide in an uncontrolled manner and to increase rapidly resulting in a very aggressive disease course. With the help of a diagnostic tissue test, the disease-specific biomarker, the HER2 protein, can be detected. As a result, physicians can identify in a targeted manner patients with HER2-positive breast cancer who are suitable for treatment with a specific medication regardless of patient age, tumor size, lymph node involvement, or additional tumor characteristics.
Since the beginning of 2010, the innovative drug has been available in the European Union also for the treatment of HER2-positive metastatic gastric cancer. Approximately 16-22% of all gastric tumors have an increased number of HER2 receptors.
With the help of tissue diagnostics, tumors can be characterized and changes can be tracked. Researchers are working intensively to develop increasingly customized treatments for cancer patients.