Improving Cancer Care with Precision Medicine and Biomarkers

Andrea Mazzocchi, PhD, explains how tissue and blood samples can be used to improve detection, progression, and treatment for cancer in patients.

In the burgeoning field of cancer research, precision medicine and biomarkers have proven to be crucial in helping to define the pathology of a patient’s cancer as well as possible treatments specific to their condition.

In the newest episode of Lungcast, American Lung Association (ALA) chief medical officer Al Rizzo, MD, spoke with Andrea Mazzocchi, PhD, co-founder and chief executive officer of Known Medicine, and adjunct professor at Wake Forest University, about the future of lung cancer treatment in relation to precision medicine and biomarkers.

Mazzocchi defined precision medicine and its significance in the world of cancer research.

“I think to really understand it we have to think of it as using a patient’s own tissue, their health records, or data surrounding them to then provide more patient specific information that really helps inform or correct your health care decision,” Mazzocchi said.

The practice works in tandem with defining biomarkers in patients. Doctors are no longer limited to studying the number of cells in a patient with cancer, they can also determine the size, how the cell is shaped, what’s inside the cell. 

Biomarkers can also aid in revealing the disease progression and behavior.

“I think what’s really interesting and important is that biomarkers can be used for every point along the timeline of cancer, from detection of cancer all the way to are we able to predict reoccurrence after someone’s in remission,” Mazzocchi said.

Several biomarkers were discussed during the interview, including genetic, epigenetic, proteomic, and phenotypic biomarkers. 

As referenced in the episode, genetic biomarkers may be the most well-known. Roughly 4000 genetic biomarkers exist, in addition to 100 mutations, some of which are treatable. Genetic biomarkers are often associated with genetic mutations and translocations and are identified using blood and tissue samples.

Others, such as epigenetic biomarkers, can be used to help understand the progression of a tumor and aid in early detection. The remaining biomarkers, proteomic and phenotypic, can be used to determine a patient’s response to specific treatment.

To learn more about the biomarkers referenced in the interview, watch the video above.

To hear all of Dr. Rizzo’s conversation with Dr. Mazzocchi on the future of cancer research, listen to Lungcast below.