The Trouble with "One Size Fits All"

Cancer Drug Treatments

In clinical trials, a group of patients with the same type of cancer are treated with a specific anti-cancer drug.  If a certain percentage of patients benefit from the drug it is then adopted by physicians as standard treatment for any patient who has that type of cancer.  The percentage of patients who must benefit from a drug could be as low as 20% or as high as 80%, depending upon the type and stage of cancer involved.  In any case, the goal of clinical trials is to identify drugs that help the average cancer patient.

The problem with that approach is that no cancer patient is “average.”  Every cancer patient is unique and every patient’s cancer is unique.  That is why doctors often have some patients who benefit from a certain drug and other patients who fail to respond to treatment with that same drug.  It is also well-known that, very often, patients who fail to benefit from one chemotherapy treatment subsequently derive benefit from a different chemotherapy drug. 

The point is that it doesn't matter that a certain drug works for 80% of patients if you are among the 20% for whom the drug doesn’t work.  The situation becomes even worse when drugs that help only 20% of patients are administered blindly to all patients, as is now typically the case.  It means that 80% of those patients are exposed needlessly to potentially dangerous drug side effects while also incurring unnecessary expense and wasting valuable treatment time while their cancers progress.

Today, many different chemotherapy drugs are widely-accepted for use within the same cancer types.  For example, the National Cancer Institute lists 27 chemotherapy regimens for the treatment of breast cancer.  The NCI does not recommend any one of these regimens above any other.  The situation is similar in other cancer types.  So how does a physician choose? 

A cancer physician always takes into account what type of cancer a patient has, how far it has advanced, and what, if any, other types of therapy, such as surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy, the patient received previously.  The physician also takes into account known drug toxicities, the patient’s age, weight, physical condition and other clinical factors that might affect the patient’s ability to receive certain types of drugs.   However, none of these factors show if a patient will benefit from a specific chemotherapy drug or drug combination.

In contrast, Personalized Cytometric Cancer Profiling examines the widest possible range of biological factors as they occur in real-time within and among the actual cancer cells of each cancer patient, as an individual.  A cancer patient may then receive a chemotherapy treatment that is personalized specifically for him or her, based upon proven evidence that the drugs he or she receives are effective at killing his or her cancer cells. 

Cancer patients are not statistics and they are not “average.”  Each patient is a person with a unique identity and a unique cancer cell biology.  Nobody should receive a cancer treatment on the uncertain premise that it worked for some of the patients who received it previously.