From sick-care to well-care
The importance of early detection and prevention
Tecan clearly plays an enabling role in oncology research, in drug development, and in cancer diagnosis and treatment. What about preventing cancer altogether?
One out of every two men and one out of every three women will develop cancer during their lifetime1. Although earlier screening increases the detection of incidence, many cases go unnoticed until a symptom of sickness is detected in the patient2.
What if we could pre-empt the presentation of the symptom? With an investment in so-called “well-care”, the dividend could be very high.
“60% of our healthcare spend should be on well-care, compared to less than 20% today”, says Rahul Mehendale of Deloitte. In 2021, Deloitte presented an actuarial study3 that poses a future scenario where healthcare could collect a USD 3.5 trillion “well-being dividend” in 2040 if the industry succeeds in making the transition from sick-care to well-care.
Advances in Early Cancer Detection and Biomarker Analysis
It has long been known that mutations in two basic classes of genes – proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes – can lead to cancer4. As the cost of sequencing an individual’s entire genome is now falling well below USD 1,0005, it is feasible that anyone can discover their potential mutations. Data from hereditary studies and consumer genomics (e.g., Ancestry.com and 23andMe) are already showing that there is a consumer-driven demand to find out more.
Closer to the clinic, currently, is the discovery and application of biomarkers for early cancer detection. These biological clues, such as a piece of a DNA molecule that might be secreted by a tumor, may be an early sign of when cancers occur. Many cancer drugs are developed closely with the analysis of biomarkers, resulting in companion diagnostics. This strategy, in combination with detection techniques like PCR and ELISA, has also launched the technology of the liquid biopsy, where a simple blood draw could become a future screening method for certain cancers.
The Role of Nutrition, Environment, and Lifestyle in Cancer Prevention
Nutrition quality and the elimination of pathogens and endotoxins has been indicated as an important step to reduce the causes of cancer. The term “foodomics” has been coined to refer to the application of “omics” technologies in food processing, nutrition, and food safety. In particular, the combination of metagenomics and metaproteomics holds great potential for the survey of food production, assessing food safety, authenticity, and quality6. Food research centers including those associated with large nutrition companies also run large sequencing operations.
Earlier detection, better nutrition, a cleaner environment, and a healthier lifestyle is today’s mantra when it comes to cancer prevention. And there is further promise with cell and gene therapy – the manipulation of our cells and genes to permanently address the causes of cancer. Much research is ongoing to understand the fundamentals.
These trends mean that cancer labs are now dealing with much larger sample numbers, together with a significant rise in research and diagnostic testing, so higher levels of productivity must be achieved. This jump in productivity must happen whilst maintaining reproducible and accurate results, with standardized and robust processes that meet strict regulatory requirements. All those factors increase the need for the next-generation of technology in laboratory automation, life science instruments and medical procedures, where Tecan is a proven leader, innovator, and key partner in supporting its customers. At Tecan, we are focused on applying that leadership to the global fight against cancer.
1. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2008.
2. Breast cancer incidence and mortality trends in 16 European countries.” EJC. 2003; 39:12, 1718-1729.
3. Deloitte Insights. Breaking the cost curve.
4. Scitable. Proto-oncogenes to Oncogenes to Cancer.
5. Sequencing.com. Whole Genome Sequencing Cost.
6. Food Microbiology. The use of next-generation sequencing for improving food safety: Translation into practice.