Cancer is a diverse group of illnesses known for the proliferation of rogue cells that lead to the formation of tumors within the body. Perhaps one of the most feared diseases of men and women everywhere, cancer continues to be a leading cause of death and disability throughout the United States. Previous statistics indicated that over 1,600,000 new cases of cancer would be diagnosed by the end of 2016. Are there innovative treatment modalities in the horizon that could change those numbers? How could genetic testing possibly help revolutionize the field of cancer diagnosis and treatment? How do an individual’s genes affect their cancer risk and how they respond to treatment? The paragraphs that follow Clay Siegall will touch on this new and exciting field of study.
The Future of Cancer Testing
Human beings have over 20,000 known genes throughout every cell of their body. These genes make each individual on the planet unique in a variety of ways. Just as scientists say no two snowflakes are the same, neither are any two people. These bits of genetic code making up individual cells also control every function in the body. We don’t generally give a lot of thought to genes and genetic codes, at least not until something goes wrong. Whenever even tiny errors occur in the individual DNA code inside each cell, the development of a disease is a possible result. Cancer is one such disease that can be caused by damage or defects in the genetic code of an individual.
Because the cells within our bodies are constantly duplicating, renewing, repairing, and dying off, there are many opportunities for these errors to occur. Why do some people get cancer in their lifetime and some don’t? Why do some patients respond better to a specific cancer treatment and others do not? The answer may lie in powerful secrets that have locked away within that patient’s genetic code. The aim of the future of cancer diagnosis and testing is to be able to tap into this previously hidden power to unveil helpful information that will allow medical professionals to more make earlier cancer diagnoses and more targeted treatment options available for all patients.
Genes and Cancer
We all develop errors within our genetic code from time to time, but we do not all develop cancer. Researchers are still attempting to determine why this fact remains true. In the meantime, statistics indicate that as many as two-thirds of cancer cases could be improved by simply implementing genetic testing as a standard part of cancer care. Realistically, the power of genes in the development of disease is so influential that this number may be far too low.
It’s already been known for some time that genetic testing can speed up diagnosis of specific diseases. Medical professionals have been using genetic testing for years to make earlier and more accurate diagnoses of serious illnesses such as tuberculosis. Additionally, patients with rare diseases could greatly benefit from making genetic testing a standard part of personalized medical care.
To begin unraveling the mysteries associated with genes and understanding genetic codes, scientists had to have access to DNA blueprints to study and make comparisons with them. The Human Genome Project that began over a decade ago provided just the access that researchers needed to begin growing a database of genetic information. Through the Human Genome Project, researchers began to better understand the functions genes play in the human body and what can happen when something goes wrong with the DNA code. This led to a better ability to understand each person’s unique DNA code and what might be causing the physical symptoms they’re experiencing. This, in turn, allows for an earlier and more accurate diagnosis to be made and for more targeted treatment options to be laid out.
Benefits of Targeted Medicine
Knowing how to read an individual patient’s genetic code and understand the implications of it has huge potential in providing personalized medical care. Medical professionals now know that two people with the same disease do not necessarily react to the disease in the same manner. This will likewise mean that they won’t respond to the same treatments in the same manner either. By targeting their treatments to their own genetic blueprint, each patient will have increased odds of successfully fighting their illness and coming out victorious.
In spite of the many benefits such genetic testing can bring to millions of cancer patients across the country, there are some who have concerns about protecting the sensitive data that this type of testing will reveal. Once genetic testing becomes a mainstream part of medical care for all patients, steps will need to be taken to ensure this information is kept confidential. While some medical professionals resist change and are fearful of the unknowns associated with making genetic testing a standard part of patient care, the benefits are far too promising for most to ignore.
Improvements in Detecting Recurrence of Bladder Cancer
One example of the benefits of using genetic testing to help provide better care for cancer patients lies in the area of bladder cancer recurrence. Bladder cancer has always been a more difficult type of cancer to diagnose. It was even harder to accurately and promptly diagnose a recurrence of the disease, meaning many times appropriate treatment would be delayed while waiting for test results. Researchers recently developed a simple urine test that can quickly and accurately diagnose a recurrence of bladder cancer by detecting a faulty protein that exists in most patients suffering from this disease.
Improvements in Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
Yet another helpful advancement has been seen in the area of prostate cancer diagnosis. Prostate cancer was previously a tedious disease to accurately diagnose. It typically required dozens of biopsies of different parts of the prostate. The patient would then have to wait weeks, sometimes months, for these test results to come back. A new type of MRI scan has now been developed that can accurately diagnose prostate cancer without any biopsies being taken at all. Impressively, the diagnosis can generally be made within two weeks, allowing prompt treatment to begin if needed.
Clay Siegall and the Future of Genetic Testing
Clay Siegall is the Founder and CEO of Seattle Genetics, an exciting company that combines the best in genetic testing and technology to provide better diagnosis and treatment options for cancer patients everywhere. Under Clay Siegall’s direction, Seattle Genetics has built an arsenal of cancer treatments based on the use of antibodies. By understanding and utilizing the plethora of knowledge inside the DNA code of patients suffering from cancer, Seattle Genetics was able to formulate effective and targeted therapies that improve the outcome for patients everywhere.
Clay Siegall also participates in bring financial awareness and aid to this important, life-saving cause. He has personally helped secure more than $675 million for this purpose from both public and private funding sources. In the past, Mr. Siegall has worked one-on-one with the Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute and the National Cancer Institute. Clay Siegall earned a Ph.D. in genetics from George Washington University and a BS in Zoology from the University of Maryland. Mr. Siegall continues to provide a wealth of insight into the exciting arena of genetic testing and the benefits it can provide to cancer patients across America.
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