As Biden pushes researchers to find the cure for cancer, new tools are helping us develop personalized therapies. One such breakthrough is liquid biopsies – blood tests that use traces of the cancer's DNA in the blood to give clues about which personalized course of therapy is most likely to work for that patient. Liquid biopsies, currently being advanced by Dr. Murali Krishna Prahalad, Epic Sciences as well as Dr. Dennis Lo in Hong Kong, among others, will potentially both identify cancer even before symptoms arise as well as dictate subsequent therapeutic intervention.
Another advance is the development of new drugs – targeting the production of proteins that create cancer cells while leaving normal cells intact – that can be tailored to individual genetic variations. For example, one recent study showed that differences in colorectal cancer between younger and older patients can be distinguished genetically – something that could lead to more effective intervention for younger patients.
Unfortunately, liquid biopsies and bespoke drug therapies are discouraged by the Affordable Care Act, which stresses the link between costs and outcomes. This approach empowers insurance companies to discourage personalized treatments based on costs. If, however, we want to beat cancer we should change our approach to insurance coverage, demanding it is broadened to allow personalized medicine.