Accuracy and Precision Define Radiation Oncology

A Q&A with Eddy Yang, MD, PhD, Professor and Vice Chair of Translational Sciences Department of Radiation Oncology; Deputy Director, Associate Director of Precision Oncology at the Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute; Birmingham, AL; shyang@uabmc.edu

Originally published December 5, 2017

Q: You are a radiation oncologist with a particular interest in cancer of the prostate. How does the molecular study of prostate, as well as other cancers, including Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), help inform Precision Radiation Oncology?

A: Radiation oncology is a specialty where the accuracy and precision of treatment delivery is vital to the safety and outcomes of our patients. Many specialized techniques are utilized to enhance this precision, including intensity modulated radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy, and volumetric arc therapy. Emerging modalities such as proton and carbon therapy take advantage of the physics of heavy ions to potentially minimize normal tissue toxicity. With these methods, we are in essence, performing precision oncology, tailoring radiotherapy to each individual patient. However, precision oncology is much more than that, as novel technologies have expanded our understanding of the drivers of cancer that may be targetable or dictate response to treatment. Currently, emerging evidence has shown the benefits of biomarker-directed systemic treatments, but what about genomic markers to guide radiation therapy? Although the preclinical and retrospective data supports the notion of this possibility, results from prospective studies are not yet available. Continue reading…


Finally: An Active Prostate Cancer Drug That Doesn’t Target Androgen


Most of the recent developments in prostate cancer treatment have addressed the timing and duration of androgen deprivation, who should receive radiation treatments, and the timing of the few available chemotherapy options. But this month’s big news is a welcome change: metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancers (mCRPCs) that harbor mutations in BRCA2 or one of a few other genes have a remarkable response to olaparib (Lynparza), a drug that inhibits the enzyme PARP1. Continue reading…


Faster Genetic Testing Method will Likely Transform Care for Many Patients with Breast Cancer

“When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s important to know as much about her tumour as possible to determine the best treatment. Most cases of breast cancer are sporadic, but a minority are hereditary and caused by one or more mutations in genes such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. To find such genetic mutations in newly diagnosed patients, researchers must sequence the woman’s DNA, which is generally a relatively slow process that generates results weeks or months after patients have started treatment. Next generation sequencing (NGS) is a newer method of sequencing DNA that processes large amounts of data. It’s faster and more expensive than conventional sequencing, but in recent years it has become cheaper and more widely accessible by rapid advances in computing power. With the use of NGS, which will soon become the mainstay of clinical genetics, breast cancer units will likely be able to get the results of genetic testing before patients begin their breast cancer treatment.”


A Pilot Study Using Next-Generation Sequencing in Advanced Cancers: Feasibility and Challenges

“New anticancer agents that target a single cell surface receptor, up-regulated or amplified gene product, or mutated gene, have met with some success in treating advanced cancers. However, patients’ tumors still eventually progress on these therapies. If it were possible to identify a larger number of targetable vulnerabilities in an individual’s tumor, multiple targets could be exploited with the use of specific therapeutic agents, thus possibly giving the patient viable therapeutic alternatives.”


A Pilot Study Using Next-Generation Sequencing in Advanced Cancers: Feasibility and Challenges

“New anticancer agents that target a single cell surface receptor, up-regulated or amplified gene product, or mutated gene, have met with some success in treating advanced cancers. However, patients’ tumors still eventually progress on these therapies. If it were possible to identify a larger number of targetable vulnerabilities in an individual’s tumor, multiple targets could be exploited with the use of specific therapeutic agents, thus possibly giving the patient viable therapeutic alternatives.”


A Pilot Study Using Next-Generation Sequencing in Advanced Cancers: Feasibility and Challenges

“New anticancer agents that target a single cell surface receptor, up-regulated or amplified gene product, or mutated gene, have met with some success in treating advanced cancers. However, patients’ tumors still eventually progress on these therapies. If it were possible to identify a larger number of targetable vulnerabilities in an individual’s tumor, multiple targets could be exploited with the use of specific therapeutic agents, thus possibly giving the patient viable therapeutic alternatives.”