Pathology studies the causes and effects of cancer and other diseases. Pathologists work by examining tissue samples in a laboratory. But with the advent of personalized medicine, the pathologist’s role is profoundly changing.
Traditionally, pathologists were viewed as “diagnosticians working behind closed doors,” says Dr. Carol Cheung with University of Toronto. But increasingly, pathologists are moving out of the laboratory and into the clinic to work directly with their patients.
What has changed? First, tumors can increasingly be diagnosed before they are removed. In many cases, surgery is no longer even appropriate as a first step.
Second, the range of tests that can be performed on small tumors has greatly expanded. New techniques include next-generation sequencing, staining, and immunohistochemistry and molecular markers. Not only can these tests provide a more accurate diagnosis of the type of tumor, they can also indicate whether a patient is suitable for new targeted therapies.
“Pathologists are able to provide much more personalized and accurate information than ever before,” say Dr. Philippe Taniere and Dr. Matthew Evans with University Hospitals Birmingham. “Oncologists are empowered to provide their patients with the most appropriate treatments, and patients are able to benefit from this personalization.” (TN)
“Today’s pathologists are informational interventionists, essential to guide personalized treatment strategies for oncology patients,” says Dr. Cheung. “It is very likely that we are only at the start of a new era for cancer diagnostics and treatment.”
Agilent has produced a nine-minute video in which Drs. Cheung, Taniere and other pathology experts discuss “A New Frontier in the Fight Against Cancer.” You can view it here.
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For more information go to:
- Advances in personalised medicine in the treatment of tumour patients – the modern pathologist’s role (Oncology News) (PDF)
- The Changing Role of Pathologists in the Age of Precision Medicine (Technology Networks)
- From Moore’s Law to Molecular Alterations (The Pathologist)
- A New Frontier in the Fight Against Cancer (Video)