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Trends And Innovations In Biotechnology
By Rachel Tam, Senior Scientific Researcher, Oncology Biomarker Development, Genentech
For many years, scientists, clinicians, health professionals, patients have been fighting hard to find a cure for cancer. Cancer is a living organism and it is constantly evolving making it very challenging to treat. Moreover, cancer is heterogeneous and the genomic landscape can be very different even within the same tumor type. We have to expand our cancer biomarker knowledge base on how the cancer grow, metastasize and respond to treatment. Extensive genomic and immune profiling of cancers from different stages and treatment time points can help us understand how the cancer evolves. Also we need to identify new therapeutic targets for drug development.
DNA sequencing technology has been employed to examine mutational, copy number and gene rearrangement landscape from cancer patient’s tumor biopsy samples. The raw FASTQ/ BAM files are processed through a bioinformatics pipeline to filter out bad sequencing reads and to detect variants while mapping to the reference human genome.
The recent advances in next generation sequencing have enabled the industry to understand more about the disease biology and to understand how the cancer evolves during treatment
2. How has the advent of latest innovations in biotechnology impacted the industry? In your opinion, how would it reshape the landscape?
The recent advances in next generation sequencing have enabled the industry to understand more about the disease biology and to understand how the cancer evolves during treatment. We know that the more advanced the disease is, the harder to cure as there are many ‘cancer clones’ in the tumor(s). Such important molecular information can guide the clinicians to utilize the most suitable treatment for the patients.
I envision future healthcare will be about early detection. For example, if we can detect circulating tumor DNA from blood early on by robust, ultra-sensitive next generation sequencing, patients can receive the right treatment on time to improve survival. We need to make the cancer diagnostics more accessible and affordable to general public that will need commitment from government, healthcare sectors, insurance, industries, NGOs to make it a reality.
3. Are there any other interesting insights you would like to share with us?
To address the tumor heterogeneity issue, we can now use single-cell sequencing method to understand different ‘cancer clones’ within a tumor. The more we understand the complexity of the cancer, the better the treatment we can offer to the patient. We will need a strong network of researchers, bioinformatics, academia and industries to share data, tools to make these dreams a reality for our patients.