Personalized Medicine in Oncology – the Importance of the Individualised Approach

12 Jul 2023

Cancer is the scourge of our century. Each year, the number of people facing the insidious disease grows. Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, more than 12 million people hear the severe diagnosis yearly, and 7.6 million die from cancer complications annually. Due to several factors such as stress, polluted environment, improper nutrition and the increased use of carcinogenic ingredients in cosmetics and detergents, the number of people suffering from the disease is expected to grow.

The goal of medical professionals worldwide is to convert cancer into a chronic disease that can be managed with treatment rather than a fatal diagnosis. A major factor in this undertaking is personalized oncology medicine, which is an individualized approach to disease treatment. Medrec:M team met with Dr. Petya Balikova, head of the medical oncology department at “St. Sofia” hospital, with whom we discussed this topic.

What is personalized medicine in oncology?

Dr. Balikova explained that personalized medicine in oncology is the most innovative approach to date. This means that every step of the diagnosis and treatment of a given oncological disease must be completely adapted to the specific type of disease and the given set of characteristics for each person.

What are the driving factors for a personalized approach?

It is always the patient and their distinct characteristics, as well as the cancer they carry, that determine the treatment. Of key importance are also the patient’s general health condition, as well as factors such as genetic predisposition, etc. The doctor added that sometimes it is necessary to initially start with general strengthening treatment in order to then continue with more aggressive treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

What are the risk factors for developing cancer?

Dr. Balikova divided the factors into two large groups: factors that humans can influence and those over which we have no control. Factors beyond our control are genetic predisposition, gender and age. The specialist advised us to focus on the factors that we have the opportunity to influence as a society and each of us as an individual, which is exposure to carcinogenic substances, radiation, ionizing radiation, polluted air, viral diseases such as HPV, Epstein-Barr, smoking, excessive alcohol use and obesity.

Investigations and screening

Tests that the doctor recommended for the purpose of prevention are tests for colorectal cancer, regular examinations for breast cancer for women, and prophylactic examinations of the prostate gland for men.