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Oncologists vow to fight cancer through precision medicine
  • By Jeong Sae-im
  • Published 2019.11.21 14:28
  • Updated 2019.11.21 15:51
  • comments 0

“We will build big data through Korean Precision Medicine Networking Group (K-PM), a group for collaboration among researchers at hospitals, and expand opportunities for patients for better treatment access through the K-MASTER program. In this way, we will use precision medicine to fight cancer.”

The Korean Society of Medical Oncology (KSMO) made this and other points to show its commitment to using precision medicine in cancer treatment.

Oh Do-youn, secretary-general of the Korean Society of Medical Oncology and a professor at Hemato-Oncology Department at Seoul National University Hospital, speaks during a news conference in Seoul, Wednesday.

KSMO introduced the necessity of precision medicine in cancer treatment, and the achievements and tasks in precision medicine research in Korea, at a news conference on “The Future of Cancer Treatment, Precision Medicine,” at a hotel in Seoul, Wednesday

Oh Do-youn, secretary-general of KSMO and a professor at Hemato-Oncology Department at Seoul National University Hospital, said oncology was one of the most active research areas in precision medicine.

“Oncologists should collect biological materials information from patients, build big data, and identify hundreds of genetic variations so that they can tell patients what they actually mean. Based on the information obtained, they should find a customized therapy to treat patients well,” she said.

However, precision medicine in cancer treatment is still a pie in the sky in Korea.

Kim Ji-hyun, a professor at Hemato-Oncology Department of Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, attributed the slow progress of precision medicine to few treatment options for patients.

“Starting from this year, the government granted insurance benefit for a Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) panel testing for all types of solid cancer. So, patients have little burden to get a test,” Kim said. “The problem is, even if they find their genetic mutations, they don’t have many treatment options.”

If there is an authorized indication for a specific genetic mutation and if the indication is reimbursable, the patient is very lucky, she noted.

However, in many cases, the available treatment is non-reimbursable, or the treatment is not authorized for specific cancer, or it is in a clinical study, or there is no relevant therapy at all, according to Kim.

“The government, academics, and pharmaceutical companies need to closely work together so that testing results can lead to actual treatments,” she added.

To push for more realistic precision medicine, KSMO launched K-PM, the networking group of clinical researchers across the nation.

K-PM aims to develop a training program to nurture experts who can accurately interpret the results of NGS panel testing and select treatment. If there is a gene mutation difficult to interpret, the researchers will discuss it at the NGS tumor board, a multidisciplinary discussion group consisting of experts in each field, and suggest a treatment.

KSMO’s other goal is to build big data through collaboration among researchers at hospitals in Korea.

The society is speeding up efforts to facilitate clinical research, in partnership with the government-led K-MASTER program.

The government has supported the large-scale K-MASTER project since 2017 to build an integrated platform that can be used in multi-centers and to develop precision medical cancer diagnosis and treatment. Oncologists at 55 domestic institutions are participating in the program.

Under the project, oncologists have completed genetic profiling of about 4,000 cancer patients and are conducting or preparing 19 studies based on precision medicine.

Several cases have been reported that researchers performed genome profiling on patients enrolled in K-MASTER and matched the appropriate treatment.

Professor Kim made a proposal to accelerate the practical use of precision medicine.

“We need to simplify the process of non-licensed drug use and the process of the urgent use of investigational drugs. We also need to revise our system to boost clinical trials in cancer-fighting precision medicine,” she said.

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