At Micronoma we are putting everything we have into ensuring that development of diagnostics like our Oncobiota™ platform will be a key propellent for creating new opportunities in precision medicine by identifying cancer at its earliest stages.
But first, a quick note about the difference between “personalized medicine” and “precision medicine,” two terms often used interchangeably but that have very distinct meanings. The is particularly important when it comes to our microbiome-driven liquid-biopsy technology that uses a simple blood draw to detect signals coming from microbes that may be associated with cancer.
So here is how we define those two terms at Micronoma.
Personalized medicine is generally considered to be healthcare tailored to patients based on their characteristics, genetics, medical and treatment history, and environmental factors, among other things. Clinicians separate people with similar factors into subgroups to determine how susceptible they are to a particular disease or how well they are likely to respond to a particular therapy.
On the other hand, precision medicine is more geared toward the disease itself and how to best target it versus other diseases, while realizing that within the larger context diseases present themselves differently from one person to another. Why is precision so important in medicine? Because you don’t treat stage I cancer the same way you treat stage IV cancer, or treatment for primary brain cancer is different from treatment of a brain cancer that is in fact a lung cancer metastasis.
The world Mirconoma is operating in falls into this precision medicine category, which develops precisely treatments for diseases–or in our case, diagnostic tools–based on genetic, microbial, and other factors particular to the disease. For instance, our precision cancer diagnostic tool looks for microbial signals to detect disease, regardless of the patient profile, as early as stage I or stage II.
In short, precision diagnostics will lead to better precision therapies.
“Early diagnosis is going to save lives,” said Micronoma co-founder, CEO, and board member Sandrine Miller-Montgomery. “And I’m probably not the only one who’ll say that, because catching cancer earlier will give you access to an arsenal of interventions from the clinician that you can’t have if you’re in stage III or stage IV.”
For example, catching lung cancer in stage I provides the opportunity to use surgery to remove a tumor, when there is an 82% chance of patient survival. That’s obviously a preferable course of action compared to cases in which lung cancer is caught in stage III or stage IV, when surgery is no longer a viable option because of how far the cancer has likely spread.
Leaving open a wider range of treatment options from using the precision diagnostic tool, Micronoma is developing a major benefit for clinicians–and their patients. Parsing out which microbial signatures are associated with the presence of specific cancers also provides a greater level of specificity at an early point in the diagnostic process, than a simple low-dose CT scan. Those scans are good at quickly detecting the presence of a nodule on the lung, but do not indicate if a nodule is benign or malign, and further testing is needed to determine if it is cancerous.
That is where the Micronoma blood assay has a clear advantage.
Another area where Micronoma is improving precision diagnostics is in expanding the amount of data available about microbes present in cancer. Indeed, most of the known microbes in existing databases have come from the environment, the ground, water, food, and even the gut oral and skin microbiome. But tissue and blood microbiomes are such a recent discovery that it is seriously underrepresented in existing public databases.
At Micronoma, we’re eliminating that hindrance by constructing our own database that builds on available knowledge to include microbial signatures we can identify from tissue and blood from more than 10,000 patient samples, from public cohorts, and our own cohort. That effort nowincludes the results of our recent collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science and the University of California, San Diego. Published in the Sept. 29 issue of Cell, that work systematically profiled fungal communities–the mycobiome–in 35 types of cancer. All that proprietary data increases the precision of our platform.
So let’s go back to our original topic, precision vs. personalized. Per our definitions, Micronomais in the precision diagnostic category, focusing on the disease signal to ensure specificity and sensitivity.
Now let’s be clear, at the end of the day, this is just a nomenclature debate and what really matters is that what researchers are developing is saving and improving lives! In the end, Tomayto, Tomahto. It doesn’t really matter what you call it as long as it is a delicious fruit… Yes, tomatoes are fruit! Trust me on this, I was raised in Marmande: the French capital of the Tomato!