Precision oncology in Latin America: current situation, challenges and perspectives

3 Apr 2019
Ali Calderon-Aparicio, Andrea Orue

Background: Anti-cancer cytotoxic treatments like platinum-derived compounds often show low therapeutic efficacy, high-risk side effects and resistance. Hence, targeted treatments designed to attack only tumour cells avoiding these harmful side effects are highly needed in clinical practice. Due to this, precision oncology has arisen as an approach to specifically target alterations present only in cancer cells, minimising side effects for patients. It involves the use of molecular biomarkers present in each kind of tumour for diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. Since these biomarkers are specific for each cancer type, physicians use them to stratify, diagnose or take the best therapeutic options for each patient depending on the features of the specific tumour.

Aim: This review aims to describe the current situation, limitations, advantages and perspectives about precision oncology in Latin America.

Main body: For many years, many biomarkers have been used in a clinical setting in developed countries. However, in Latin American countries, their broad application has not been affordable partially due to financial and technical limitations associated with precarious health systems and poor access of low-income populations to quality health care. Furthermore, the genetic mixture in Latin American populations could generate differences in treatment responses from one population to another (pharmacoethnicity) and this should be evaluated before establishing precision therapy in particular populations. Some research groups in the region have done a lot of work in this field and these data should be taken as a starting point to establish networks oriented to finding clinically useful cancer biomarkers in Latin American populations.

Conclusion: Latin America must create policies allowing excluded populations to gain access to health systems and next generation anti-cancer drugs, i.e. high-cost targeted therapies to improve survival. Also, cancer clinical research must be oriented to establish cancer biomarkers adapted to specific populations with different ethnicity, allowing the improvement of patient outcomes.

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