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Cancer Therapy Insight into the Latest Precision Oncology Technologies

Source: Press release University of Bern

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Researchers at the University of Bern and Inselspital have collaborated to provide an insight into the latest precision oncology technologies. To use these innovative technologies in the clinic is still a major hurdle as it still needs to be standardized and will also require new infrastructures in the clinics.

Tumor cells (red) grown within a microstructure (host tissue; green), a so-called organoid. The Rubin Lab has been developing organoids that will serve as a tool for investigating patient-derived tumors at a cell-cell level.
Tumor cells (red) grown within a microstructure (host tissue; green), a so-called organoid. The Rubin Lab has been developing organoids that will serve as a tool for investigating patient-derived tumors at a cell-cell level.
(Source: © Alison Ferguson / BCPM)

Bern/Switzerland – Tumors have significant differences depending on the person affected, even if they are the same cancer, such as breast cancer. Therefore, precision oncology targets specific genetic characteristics of a tumor and incorporates them into treatment. In this way, existing therapies can be ‘tailored’ to avoid side effects and save money on expensive treatments. This represents the cancer treatment of the future.

Dr. Dilara Akhoundova, medical oncologist at the University Hospital Bern and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bern, and Prof Mark A. Rubin, director of the Department for Biomedical Research (DBMR) and the Bern Center for Precision Medicine (BCPM), have now summarized and reviewed the most recent advances in multi-omics tumor profiling. In their review, published in the leading journal Cancer Cell, they provide a critical view of the current state of translational validation of the reviewed technologies and analyze their potential for integration into precision treatment.

“These new technologies take us to a depth of understanding of tumors that has never been seen before. It is as if with the standard tools, we were told that Switzerland is a country with higher altitudes than the Netherlands; with these new technologies, we can see the 3-D landscape of mountains, valleys, and lakes,” says Mark A. Rubin, Director of the Bern Center for Precision Medicine.

Integrating novel technologies into the clinic as fast as possible

However, there are still a number of hurdles to overcome before the latest technologies can be used in the clinic: among other things, they still need to be standardized, or require new infrastructures in clinics due to the evaluation of a very large volume of data or regulatory approval.

One of the latest promising technologies in precision oncology is liquid biopsy, which makes it possible to provide information about the type of cancer in patients more quickly and minimally invasively by means of a blood test. Especially in the case of tumors located deep in the body, such as in the lungs or pancreas, this requires invasive procedures, occasionally under general anesthesia. Many such technologies as liquid biopsy is being used in translational and clinical cancer research. Their clinical potential is already very high; they still require, in some cases, an additional method that increases ‘measurement accuracy’ for certain samples. Other innovations are still in their infancy and need to be clinically validated to see if they can even achieve their goal.

Another important Bern precision oncology initiative is the Swiss Oncology and Cancer Immunology Breakthrough Platform (SOCIBP), which aims to establish a common genomic ‘language’ for Swiss cancer research: Molecular tumor data will be presented and shared in an understandable way, and genomic testing across Switzerland will be standardized. The project is funded by the Swiss Personalized Health Network (SPHN), a federal initiative. “One of our current translational projects focuses on the standardization and clinical validation of genomic tests assessing DNA repair in prostate cancer and other solid tumors”, Rubin explains. The project’s overarching goal is to develop more reliable predictive biomarkers allowing precision oncology treatment for tumors harboring DNA repair defects.

The study was supported by the Swiss Personalized Health Network (SPHN) Socibp, the Swiss Cancer League, the Nuovo-Soldati Foundation for Cancer Research, the Isrec Fondation Recherche Cancer, and the Werner and Hedy Berger-Janser Foundation.

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