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Living with Cancer: Why Do We Need Precision Medicine

A Blog Post by Chuck Maniscalco | May 1, 2017

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an all-day symposium on Emerging Approaches to Precision Medicine, sponsored by the Lurie Cancer Center. The symposium was targeted to cancer medical professionals; but I, in my curiosity and desire to be an advocate for cancer research, attended as well. I think I was the only patient in the room.

The question on my mind when I walked in was: why do people with the same cancer diagnosis and the same treatment have such varying results?  And why does this seem to be more the case for cancer than for other diseases?

To cut right to the punch line, it is because cancer is not one disease — not even hundreds of diseases.

What I learned from the various presentations was that each person’s cancer is unique to him or her, like with fingerprints. I could bore you with things like molecular heterogeneity, tumor resistance mechanisms, circulating cancer cells and mutation burden; but mercifully, I won’t. However, all of these things and more lead to a clear conclusion: no two cancers are exactly alike.

It’s like fingerprints with an added twist. Your fingerprints are the same for your whole life; but what if your fingerprints changed over your lifetime, and always in ways unique to you? That is a lot of complexity.

Cancer is unique to each individual, and it changes and adapts over time — again unique to each individual. No wonder it is still one of the most deadly diseases on the planet.

Today in the United States, there are more than 15 million people living with cancer. That means 15 million different and constantly evolving diseases. In the future, treatment will demand a rich understanding of each person’s unique disease profile.  And this is what precision medicine is all about. 

Daunting though this may be, research is making great progress on understanding cancer at the individual level, with a promise of truly personalized treatment not that far away — if we keep at it. The Lurie OncoSET effort is designed to attack this very issue: how to understand and then treat each individual with an approach that is targeted to his or her precise disease profile.

I began this note with the question of why people with the same diagnosis and treatment respond so differently. After experiencing the symposium, this now seems like a silly question. Of course people respond differently! Because it’s not the same diagnosis. My stage IV lung cancer is unique to me, not like any others’.

I had heard of precision medicine and personalized treatments, but it all seemed like science fiction to me. Well, it’s not science fiction — it’s science.  And it is vital to a future where cancer is better treated, better diagnosed and ultimately prevented. 

Please help us keep up the effort by donating to the Lurie Cancer Center’s Lung OncoSET program. You will be doing a great service to those people already living with cancer, and an even greater service to the next generation and the one after that. Our children and grandchildren will be forever grateful to you.

About Chuck Maniscalco

Chuck ManiscalcoDiagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in October 2016, Chuck is benefitting from the advanced, individualized and research-based treatment options offered at the Lung OncoSET, part of the Lurie Cancer Center.

Chuck is currently retired, after a long career in business, including President of Gatorade, CEO of Quaker, Tropicana and Gatorade, and CEO of Seventh Generation. He is an avid runner, guitar player, and takes daily joy in completing the NY Times Crossword Puzzles.

Email Chuck Maniscalco

About Lung OncoSET

The Lung OncoSET is an extension of the Lurie Cancer Center's breakthrough OncoSET Program. OncoSET (Sequence, Evaluate, Treat) is based on the premise that each individual and every person's cancer is unique. It harnesses the power of precision medicine to identify tailored therapies for patients based on the abnormal genes specific to their tumor.

In 2014, the Lurie Cancer Center became the first academic cancer center in Chicago and one of only a handful in the nation to provide this kind of personalized medicine to patients with tumors — especially those tumors that are resistant to traditional cancer therapies. Learn more about Lung OncoSET and support more effective treatments for patients with lung cancer.

Support Lung OncoSET

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Cancer: Why Do We Need Precision Medicine? (5/1/2017)

Thriving with Cancer (3/28/2017)
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