The term ‘Personalised Medicine’ has been in the headlines for quite a while now, yet there is very little understanding of what it actually means in practical terms.

It may come as a surprise to know that we have been practicing personalised medicine for long time. When facing a patient with a medical complaint, we take their personal history, conduct an examination and prescribe specific treatment. In short, we consider the individual and their illness to determine an appropriate action plan.

However the term ‘Personalised Medicine’ and, in our case, ‘Personalised Oncology’, relates to a relatively new development where we look at a particular defect in a person’s genetic information to map out a precise treatment by a ‘designer drug’. In technical terms, we are looking for a target that can be influenced by a drug designed specifically for that purpose.

This may result in fewer side effects, a better result and, ultimately, less waste of financial resources. This method utilises the most advanced scientific processes to analyse the tissue extracted from the tumour.

As our understanding of genetics and human genome has increased, we have now discovered a number of targets which can be ‘drugged’ by an agent, neutralised and then potentially stop uncontrolled cell division, the cause of cancer.

This new approach is very complex, however, and well beyond the scope of this short introduction. It has been explored since the early 2000s and will take few more years before it will become routinely performed.

The method to detect abnormalities, Molecular Profiling (or Molecular Intelligence) however, is now available. If performed by the treating physician, it improves the chances of successful treatment and may increase the overall success of the cancer management. At this stage, it is the pinnacle of the modern oncology.

There are still significant hurdles, including the cost passed on to the patient. Conducting Molecular Profiling requires a team and a physician familiar with the method. And if a drug is identified as potentially useful, that drug might not be available for use or funded by either government or private health.

When a patient and a family are facing the decision to embark on Molecular Profiling, all these factors have to be considered, so the objectives and potential goals are clearly delineated and possible outcomes are discussed. Only then can this journey be undertaken with a benefit to all parties involved.

Molecular Profiling is available to our patients and can be carried out upon request. The cost is generally between $3000 to $7000, depending on the individual’s needs and requirements.

Molecular Profiling may identify a treatment which is less toxic and more effective. It also increases the number of options available, should the treatment fail or cancer relapse. At present we cooperate with couple of institutions in the United States. The procedure takes about two weeks to complete and the full report is always provided to the patient. Using the detailed knowledge of the tumour and its behaviour, treatment is then tailored to the particular needs and preferences of the patient. It is the highest possible standard in oncology at this point in time.