142IN - Personalized cancer care: Empowering the patient

Date 30 September 2012
Event ESMO Congress 2012
Session Society session - ESO - Celebrating 30 years of ESO and 50 issues of Cancer World. Cancer 2020: The road to personalized cancer care
Topics Bioethics, Legal, and Economic Issues
Personalised/Precision Medicine
Basic Principles in the Management and Treatment (of cancer)
Presenter Kathy Redmond
Authors K. Redmond
  • European School of Oncology, 6926 - Montagnola/CH


The shift from the traditional “one size fits all” approach to treating cancer to a more “personalised” model where treatment is customised to the individual is good news for cancer patients. Potentially personalised cancer care will result in more optimal use of available treatments and less treatment-related side effects. Consequently patient outcomes should be improved. Cash-strapped health services are also set to benefit because resources should be used more efficiently to deliver more effective care. However, given that there are many different cancers and cancer subtypes, and the fact that scientific advances cannot be applied equally across all cancers, it is unrealistic to think that every cancer patient will benefit from personalised cancer care over the coming decade. Moreover, there is no guarantee that even those patients with cancers where there is strong evidence that treatment should be customised according to tumour characteristics will gain access to more personalised treatments. This is because cancer patients' right to receive care that is appropriate to their needs is not always upheld. Although numerous factors contribute to this situation; empowerment represents a key means for patients to realise their rights. Empowering cancer patients to be more involved in decision making can be challenging because of entrenched attitudes and beliefs, unrealistic expectations, cultural norms and literacy levels. Innovative communication technologies offer a novel way to empower patients but care is required to ensure that those who are less “technology savvy” are not discriminated by their lack of skills in using this media. The cancer community needs to engage closely with the media to ensure that coverage on the potential of personalised cancer care is balanced and does not generate unrealistic expectations. The media also has an important role to play to counteract negative attitudes about cancer.


The author has declared no conflicts of interest.