Gene therapy is a breakthrough — but it’s no magic bullet

There’s a shift happening in the medical community right now. Because of it, many healthcare professionals think we’re on the brink of changing the course of cancer treatment.

And while just about anything would be an improvement over the barbaric “cut, poison, burn” status quo, I do have some concerns about jumping head first into the world of gene-based cancer therapy drugs — also referred to as “biologics.”

Don’t get me wrong, this new approach is certainly a step in the right direction.

But unfortunately, right now, biologics may only benefit a small portion of patients with advanced cancer.

Specifically, new research found that roughly nine out of 100 cancer patients could get one these drugs. And maybe five out of 100 of those patients would actually see their tumors shrink in response to treatment.

That’s a pretty generous definition of the term “benefit.” Because a smaller tumor isn’t an ideal end point — though it does usually mean more life lived.

That’s not nothing. But I do feel it’s important to be realistic with regard to your expectations where these treatments are concerned. So let’s take a closer look at the numbers, shall we?

Investigators evaluated 31 different FDA-approved drugs — which fell into “genome-targeting” or “genome-informed” categories.

In order to be considered “genome-targeted,” the drugs had to be prescribed based on genomic testing results. In other words, the treatment had to target a specific genetic abnormality in the patient’s cancer. (A good three quarters of the drugs in this study fell into this category.)

A “genome-informed” drug, on the other hand, included all genome-targeted treatments and any drug administered after genetic testing — even if the drug didn’t target a specific abnormality identified by the test.

Researchers found that the number of metastatic cancer patients eligible for genome-targeted therapy jumped from just over five percent in 2006 to just over eight percent in 2018.

In that same time frame, the number of cancer patients that responded to genome-targeted therapy also increased — from just below 1 percent, up to nearly 5 percent.

The response to genome-informed therapy went from just over one percent in 2006 to 6.6 percent in 2018.

The investigators used these numbers to estimate that roughly four percent of cancer patients could benefit from genome-target therapies over the next year. And somewhere between five and six percent could benefit from genome-informed therapies in the same time frame.

While there’s no denying that’s good news, the fact is, in the grand scheme of things, those numbers are really a drop in the bucket. And yet, conventional medicine seems to be putting all of its eggs in this one basket — with all other clinical investigations sidelined indefinitely.

The enthusiasm for biologics is very high. And it’s easy to see why. The fact is, these therapies make a lot of sense. They should work — and some actually do.

You have drugs like trastuzumab, for example, which targets HER2 in breast cancer. Or vemurafenib and dabrafenib, which both target melanoma mutations. These cases represent significant breakthroughs in the treatment of specific cancers.

But some of the other genome-targeted treatments out there? Well… they don’t have nearly the same level of promise.

Plus, they’re quite expensive. And not just the drugs themselves, either.

In a “not so shocking” twist, there are companies out there working hard to convince cancer patients that they absolutely need to have their tumors genetically tested, to see if they qualify for treatment with biologics. And they’re pitching tests that run upwards of $5,000, with the promise of making their customers’ cancer more treatable.

Of course, when you consider everything I explained above, this is a pretty misleading bill of goods.

I’m no fan of chemotherapy, and anything that moves us away from its use is progress in my book. But these gene-based therapies — however exciting they appear — don’t look to be the magic bullet we’ve all been searching for. Which means we can’t afford to stop researching other options.

The good news is, those options ARE out there. But you’re not likely to hear about them from any mainstream oncologist. Which is why I’ve spent the last several months pouring over my research files and combing through my patient records. And I’m in the home stretch of putting together a comprehensive guide to cancer screening, prevention, and treatment. I’ll let you know as soon as this interactive online protocol is ready.

It’s filled with truly life-saving information I’ve used to help countless patients battle this dreaded diagnosis—and come out the other side victorious. So stay tuned!