Precision oncology is at the frontline of personalized medicine, leading the way in utilizing the molecular profile of an individual’s tumor to optimize cancer treatment and management. Cancer can be extensively characterized for mutations in order to maximize patient benefit by predicting tumor biology and treatment responsiveness. This forthcoming precision oncology program, Translational Cancer Genomic Institute (TCGI), strives to generate innovative cancer management strategies and new treatment paradigms with the aim of improving and saving the lives of cancer patients.

Increasing precision in cancer treatment

Aging is a major risk factor for cancer.  An aging population where baby-boomers enter retirement age could increase the rate of new cancer cases by 79% annually by 2032. Half of Canadians will develop cancer; and 30% of all deaths will result from cancer. The social and economic impacts of cancer in Canada are enormous.

Cancer is a disease of the genome. Advances in health research and technology in the last decades have helped speed up the pace of our understanding of genomic changes in cancer. An individual’s genomic profile from tumors provides significant information to guide personalized drug development and treatment options. Through precision oncology, molecular analysis of tumours may facilitate effective therapies tailored to individual patients.

The future of cancer treatment is about enabling precise identification of patients who may benefit from targeted therapies — it is time to make precision oncology a reality in everyday clinical practice.

Continued efforts to accelerate the path to precision medicine in oncology represent an urgent need. TCGI aims to deliver increasingly precise treatment and improve the quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer. The pursuit of more effective ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer will be aided by expanding targeted treatment options and improving conventional therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. The University of British Columbia, Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at the BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Prostate Centre are making a joint effort to create TCGI to generate health and economic benefits through the development of spin-off companies and increased capacity to partner with national and international biomedical enterprises.

Driving progress against cancer

The growing knowledge of the molecular changes in cancer has stimulated efforts to develop new therapies for cancer prevention and screening. It is time to advance precision oncology in British Columbia that integrates cancer genomic information with clinical information. PHIX will support tissue banking to increase the opportunity to perform more sequence analysis of tumors and expand the bioinformatics and computing infrastructure necessary for precision oncology. The increased knowledge exchange amongst oncologists, researchers, patients and pharmaceutical industry within PHIX will present the opportunity to advance research commercialization, generate intellectual property, and provide targeted treatments that are more effective than previous approaches.