Targeted Cancer TherapiesIf you google the word ‘scope’ for meanings, there are a couple of explanatory statements that come up. Extent of area covered, Opportunity or possibility to deal with something and so on. However, if you modify the search with ‘rifle scope meaning’, Google throws up a single statement saying a telescopic sight on a rifle. While the former search result is more generalist in meaning, the latter describes the tool used over rifle to aim and shoot. Though we searched for two different things, and there are two different search results, they don’t differ much from each other. Rifle scope refers to the extent of area that would be covered by the barrel.

Let us understand the two extreme approaches of shooting. Consider a layperson with a gun in their hand. Do you see a scope on the gun? The answer is mostly going to be ‘No’. When the gun sits in a drawer as insurance for facing an intruder some time in the future, there is no point having a scope. If we take a soldier, on the other hand, there is always a scope attached to the barrel. It is because the approach that is followed by army-men is targeted. The purpose of a soldier is two-fold- To kill the antagonist with high precision, and to make sure none of the innocent citizens are harmed.

While some would debate that the purpose for either type of approach is different, I would say they both are killing those who they feel are a danger to the society. So there is a common ground for comparison. However, if given a choice, the majority of us would choose the army approach.

Being a healthcare professional, I see an exact scenario being extrapolated for treatment of cancer. There are two schools of thought:-
A. The traditional approach of trial and error with chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells but also a fair amount of healthy cells as collateral damage
B. A novel approach of going to the root cause of cancer and targeting the gene responsible for it. Not too long ago, when the human genome (entire genetic material of human beings) was sequenced, I would say, we had begun the production of ‘rifle scopes’ for cancer.

Genetic science has moved to a point where for a particular type of cancer, we can understand the causative gene mutation (changes in the genetic framework), and the kind of drugs that would have an enhanced action, standard action or a suppressed action. Wow! This is like telling a shooter that there is not only a rifle scope to help him aim, but also to ultra-magnify the target and give you directions on what will happen if you move the barrel in any direction. A shooter would already be drooling over such a scope.

Having understood the usefulness of the insights that we can get from genetic testing, I would say it is the best tool to have along with the gun. The gun (treatment methods) when used alone, might stand a chance to destroy our own people (non-cancerous cells). The rifle scope (genetic analysis) helps the gun to target and destroy only the antagonists (cancerous cells).

There are tales of success of genetic analysis and how genetic testing proved to be pivotal in the treatment of several patients. Although I wish everyone to be safe from cancer, if they found themselves in this battlefield, always be there with a novel scope and half the task could be accomplished, then and there!