Precision Medicine and Pathology
Precision medicine has transformed the approach to treating cancer. In contrast to conventional chemotherapy which involves toxic drugs which kill both cancerous and normal cells, causing many side effects, precision medicine selectively targets a patient’s unique tumor characteristics.
Pathologists are involved in each step of the process. First, a tumor may be biopsied in either the operating room or radiology under CAT scan guidance. Pathologists are called upon to assess the sample, ensuring it is adequate for both diagnosis and testing for precision medicine targets (“actionable mutations”).
In the lab, pathologists examine tissues under the microscope using various stains to make a diagnosis. When appropriate, a tumor is tested for the presence of “actionable mutations”. If discovered, the patient may be eligible for targeted therapy. The success of precision medicine depends on pathologists.