Why it matters for patients

Not every patient with cancer responds to treatments in the same way: What works for one person may not work for another, and some may suffer serious side-effects from treatment that is also ineffective. This can lead to emotional and financial distress, placing a serious burden on people with cancer, as well as on their families, carers and health systems. Now, thanks to breakthrough technological advances, it is becoming possible to treat people with cancer based on ‘who’ they are, not ‘where’ their cancer is located. Improved treatment and quality of care means fewer side-effects and distress, as well as faster access for people with cancer to new and more effective treatment options – all of which improve the quality of life for people with cancer.

One such way to address this is with cancer molecular testing and personalised medicine, a targeted approach to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. For instance, cancer biomarkers are molecules that are usually produced by cancer cells, which can then be detected in bodily tissues or fluids. They can be patient-specific, rather than tumour-specific, which means they can help identify people who have cancer or who are at risk of developing cancer and help to select or predict those people who are likely to derive therapeutic benefit from specific treatments. Awareness about cancer molecular testing remains low – only 23% of European doctors feel that their patients are always fully informed about molecular or biomarker testing.

“Personalised precision cancer medicine is a targeted approach to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer based on an individual’s specific profile”

How to make the most of this tool

The European Cancer Patient Coalition has developed an educational video animation and infographic to raise awareness about cancer molecular testing and cancer biomarkers. You may use both materials to support your advocacy and education efforts with patients, healthcare professionals and policy-makers and to reinforce and visualise your messages. You can help raise awareness by sharing the video animation with your friends and network, on social media and your organisation website. You may wish to share the infographic on your website and networks and distribute the printouts at events and meetings. The ECPC Personalised Medicine Awareness Month takes place every November and is an opportunity to amplify the messages and raise awareness in your country, so please join us in this effort and see how you can get involved and make use of additional materials we have developed for the campaign.

Personalised Medicine Booklet

We have also developed our Personalised Medicine Leaflet as well as our Personalised Medicine Booklet a booklet to address the opportunities and challenges that personalised medicine provides, so that the needs of cancer patients across Europe are met. Moreover, this guide, created by patients and health professionals, is intended to be a patient-focused enabler so that it allows cancer patients to make the best decisions for themselves and enhance their personal health and wellbeing.

The guide has been developed by Mark Lawler, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor of Digital Health and Chair of Translational Genomics at Queen’s University Belfast (UK), in close collaboration with patients and patient advocates in ECPC. Prof Lawler is a member of the Scientific Committee of ECPC, Member of the Board of the European Cancer Organisation and Member of the Board of the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine.