It is important for newly-diagnosed cancer patients and their family members to
understand the ethical implications of personalized medicine. Although some
patients may currently benefit from research that has already identified targeted
therapies for their specific cancer types, this field is relatively new, and much work
is still in progress.
- If available, should they have a genetically-based test to determine the
possibility of benefiting from a specific targeted therapy?
- If a patient is diagnosed with a cancer associated with known inherited
genetic mutations (e.g. specific mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene in
breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other cancer types), should family
members receive genetic testing to help determine their risk?
- Should patients agree to donate their tissue for research?
In assessing these options, Iit is important for cancer patients to understand the
implications that such decisions may hold for them and their family members.
Although personalized medicine holds great promise, the associated challenges
are not limited to the science behind it. Several public policy and ethical challenges
exist that must be addressed before personalized medicine can fulfill patient
needs safely and effectively.
All stakeholders must be actively engaged in overcoming these challenges,