Precision medicine often relies on population databases – but this may render it less effective for non-European patients
When is “precision medicine” not precision medicine? When it’s used for patients of non-European descent, a new study from the University of Southern California reveals (1). Ideally, genetic mutations in cancer cells are highlighted in a comparison with normal tissue – but, in many cases, there’s no normal tissue sample available. Genetic information from population databases can serve as a stand-in, but there’s a catch: most of the genomes included in such databases come from individuals of European descent. What does that mean? Variants that are harmless in a given patient may stand out as potentially cancer-causing, simply because the population database lacks the information to identify them as benign.
“A physician could give a treatment that is toxic, ineffective or worse – unnecessarily,” says David Craig, principal investigator and co-director of the Institute of Translational Genomics at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “This would be the case in the context of clinical decision-making based on tumor sequencing only.” If reported mutations are interpreted as cancer-driving when they are, in fact, inherited and most likely benign, patients might undergo more intensive treatment than necessary, or might not receive the treatment best-suited to their particular disease profile.
Read the full article now
Log in or register to read this article in full and gain access to The Translational Scientist’s entire content archive. It’s FREE!
Or register now - it’s free!
You will benefit from:
- Unlimited access to ALL articles
- News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts