Damon Runyon News

March 2, 2017

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation recently asked some of our current award recipients how cancer will be prevented, diagnosed, and/or treated differently in the future. What can a future cancer patient, say 10-20 years from now, expect to experience? Their responses were fascinating, and over the next few months we will share their visions for the future on this blog.

Amanda Balboni, PhD, Damon Runyon Sohn Fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

In the next 10-20 years, I anticipate that tumor genetic testing will become standard practice as sequencing technology becomes faster and more cost effective. This will revolutionize the way cancer is treated clinically and make personalized cancer medicine a reality. 

With this technology, we will be able to sequence every patient’s tumor when they are diagnosed with cancer.  This will allow us to identify all of the unique mutations that a tumor uses to form, grow, and spread to other organs.  Scientists can then work to design drugs that will target these mutations.  Since these mutations are only present in the tumor, and not the normal cells of the body, these treatments will specifically kill the tumor and spare the normal tissue, leading to far fewer side effects. 

Identifying tumor mutations will make it possible to predict if a patient is unlikely to benefit from a certain treatment, thereby reducing the amount of medications a patient has to take and preventing any unnecessary side effects.  The information gained from tumor sequencing will inform clinicians on the best drugs to use in combination which will provide patients longer lasting responses to therapy.

In twenty years, I envision that doctors will be able to reference their patient’s tumor profile and use their toolbox of drugs targeting tumor-specific abnormalities to tailor-make a treatment plan for each individual patient.