Now that you’ve been diagnosed, your brain tumor will be genetically tested to identify its molecular makeup. This was not possible only a few years ago, but because of innovation and new technology, clinicians can learn a lot about your brain tumor – and potentially how to treat it and manage growth. This is the next major step in your treatment path.
On May 9, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) published an official reclassification of Tumor Types of the Central Nervous System. The reclassification integrates molecular information (genetics) with histology (tumor characteristics under a microscope) allowing doctors to make a more precise diagnosis and treatment plan.
If your tumor was diagnosed before the new classifications came out, it is important for you to have a conversation with your oncologist about whether your existing tumor sample can and should be reanalyzed to look for certain molecular markers. If your medical center does not have the technology to perform molecular analysis, you may consider seeing a brain tumor specialist at a large academic medical center or an NCI Designed Cancer Center.
There are also several companies that perform molecular profiling which your tumor specimens could be sent to for analysis.
Outcomes, clinical characteristics, and response to treatment may differ based on the genetic, or molecular, markers of a tumor.
New clinical trial designs, such as basket and umbrella trials, incorporate molecular characteristics (biomarkers) of a tumor to help identify which patients may be either a good fit for the experimental treatment, or which experimental treatment is best for the patients. Check out the NBTS Clinical Trial Finder to find brain tumor specific trials near you.
In “precision medicine” patients’ molecular biomarkers are used to assign patients to the arm of the trial with the matching therapy that is expected, like seen in other cancers, to be effective for the subset of patients with that molecular marker.