Scientific research that is progressing in leaps and bounds will soon change the face of cancer. In this scenario, traditional cancer classification techniques - the size, shape and location of tumours - will fall by the wayside and be replaced by a 'molecular perspective'. Cancer will be identified not by the site, like cervical cancer or breast cancer, but by its molecular defects. This will enable treatment to go with the patient's tumour type rather than its location.
This is possible as scientists are now equipped, through headway in molecular biology and computer science, to delve into the genetic complexity of cancer. Now oncologists are primarily concerned with catching the cancer early, when there's more chance of treating it. However, the scanning technologies used for detecting cancer early are not 100 per cent effective. As cancer moves about the body, it leaves a residue of genes and proteins that are different from that left behind by normal cells. Unravelling this molecular trail of cancer can help detect the disease much before it becomes visible.
The results of these investigations, especially studying the molecular signatures, will help doctors find out which tumours are dangerous and which need treatment. One group of researchers in the US believes that molecular profiling could radically change breast cancer treatment. Right now, nearly all women with breast cancer are put on chemotherapy after surgery to prevent cancer from spreading. Some of them may not need it but there is no mechanism that can tell who needs it and who doesn't. With molecular profiling, it would be possible to say which tumours are dangerous and who needs treatment.
Molecular profiling will also help scientists devise therapies that hit the most vulnerable spot in the tumour. It looks like a new dawn in the treatment of cancer.