• Shaun Bateman

Precision oncology marks a significant breakthrough in cancer treatment

  • Bayer highlights the significance of precision oncology this World Cancer Day.

  • The key to precision oncology lies in genomic testing.

  • Tailored cancer treatment is a reality in some parts of the world.

Johannesburg, February 4th, 2019 – As we mark World Cancer Day 2020, we are all too aware that approximately 115 000 South Africans are diagnosed with various forms of cancer each year¹. The race to find a cure for cancer continues, with researchers all over the world looking for the answers to this often-time terminal disease. Just as cancer has progressed over the ages, so too has the treatment of the disease evolved, bringing precision medicine into clear focus, as researchers learn more.

“The progress that has been made in finding the right tools to fight against cancer is at a critical turning point, as a wave of innovation in precision medicine is starting to shift cancer treatment from the traditional one-size-fits-all approach for large patient groups to tailored treatments for specific patient groups. The traditional approach to treating cancer based on the location of the tumour, such as breast, prostate or lung will see a paradigm shift to a tumour-agnostic approach to cancer treatment. This means that medicines are now being developed to treat patients based on the genomic profile of their tumours,” says Bayer’s Medical Advisor for Oncology, Dr Muneer Valley.

Understanding a patient’s genomic profile is crucial to precision oncology as it gives valuable insights into an individual’s cancer, allowing the patient and their doctor to understand what is causing it to grow and spread.

Dr Valley explains, “Genomic testing identifies altered genes that cause the development of altered proteins that can drive tumour growth, giving doctors the ability to match cancer treatments to specific genomic alterations driving tumours. This approach means that we can target all tumours with the same specific alteration with the same treatment – regardless of where that tumor is in the body. In fact, between 30%² and 49%³ of patients who undergo genomic testing, have one or more actionable alteration, which means that they could be matched to either an approved therapy or a drug in a clinical trial.”

Considering the significance of genomic testing to precision oncology, the widespread adoption of comprehensive genomic testing is critical to get the right treatment to the right patient. Adopting new technologies such as this will take time and effort and will require collaboration between the key stakeholders. In South Africa, this would include the healthcare providers, laboratories, medical aids, and regulatory bodies who can all contribute to a real paradigm shift of a true, tumour-agonistic, precision approach to oncology treatment.

“While the mainstays of current organ based clinical treatment will continue to play a crucial role in patient care, going forward, I believe that precision oncology will be rapidly integrated into the overall treatment paradigm to provide optimal care for patients, and extend and improve their quality of life. In order to achieve this, we must unite as a cancer community to make genomic testing routine, so that we can get precision therapies to those who need it most. Bayer is proud to be at the forefront of precision oncology,” concludes Dr Valley.


  2. Boland GM, Piha-Paul SA, Subbiah V, et al. Clinical next generation sequencing to identify actionable aberrations in a phase I program. Oncotarget. 2015;6(24):20099-20110.

  3. Massard C, Michiels S, Ferte C, et al. High-throughput genomics and clinical outcome in hard-to-treat advanced cancers: results of the MOSCATO 01 trial. Cancer Discov. 2017;7(6):586-595.