The field of cancer genomics is a relatively new research area that takes advantage of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to study how the human genome is altered in cancer cells. By sequencing the DNA, and monitoring the RNA and epigenetic modifications of cancer cells in comparison with matched normal tissues, scientists identify differences that may initiate or drive cancers. Scientists are increasingly generating large genomic datasets and sharing them with researchers worldwide, which boosts the power of the data. This is opening up exciting new opportunities for discoveries, both in terms of better understanding of the molecular basis of cancer, but also in terms of tailoring the most appropriate treatment or ‘Precision medicine’.
Precision Medicine in cancer aims to exploit cancer genomic information to match each patient with the most appropriate molecular targeted therapy. While traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments target cellular processes common to both healthy and cancerous cells, Precision Medicine directs newly developed treatments specifically to cancer cells based on their underlying molecular profile.