Next-Generation Sequencing: Why It’s the Future of Personalized Cancer Treatments


Since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, it’s clear that DNA sequencing has been critical to the evolution of healthcare. The modern next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology makes the process faster and more affordable.

NGS is also emerging as critical in understanding cancer. By using NGS-driven targeted therapies and diagnostic tools, oncologists can advance the accuracy and sensitivity of treatments by making them personal. So why is NGS the future of personalized cancer care?

What is NGS?

DNA sequencing is not new. It has been around since the late 1970s. It refers to the ability to read the order of genes in DNA. NGS uses the amplicon technique to sequence genetic code, allowing for parallel identification of multiple small code fragments. It is technology able to increase the speed and reduce the cost of DNA sequencing.

Cancer and NGS

Cancer is still a bit of a mystery, but we do know that it develops due to DNA mutations that can accumulate. By using NGS, researchers are developing a better understanding of cancer genomes throughout the various types of the disease.

By understanding the mechanism behind cancer genesis, they can sequence cancer genomes for each patient. That means more targeted treatment options.

The benefits of next-generation sequencing go beyond just cancer research. NGS is used to study diabetes, infectious diseases, and immunologic disorders.

NGS and Individualized Oncology

Cancer is unlike most kinds of diseases. It has a very personal path that relies on the mutations. Understanding those mutations will impact the diagnosis and management of the disease per patient. With whole-genome sequencing, scientists can also map the sequences and identify mutations on a local and regional scale.

NGS allows for the detection of novel and unusual somatic mutations in a variety of cancers, including:

  • Bladder
  • Renal cell carcinoma
  • Small-cell lung
  • Prostate
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Whole-genome sequencing using NGS technology allows researchers to identify even the rarest forms of cancer. They can also use this science to create therapeutic targets.

Detecting Hereditary Forms of Cancer

Certain cancers, such as breast and ovarian, tend to run in families. Around 10 percent of cancers pass from generation to generation. Current genetic testing techniques such as Sanger can identify mutations, but it’s costly and time-consuming. It is effective only for more common forms of the disease, too

Next-generation sequencing can advance the testing by pinpointing rare cancers, as well. Since it allows for testing multiple genes at one time, it offers an improved variation detection rate. That is not seen in current testing methodologies, which often miss some variations.

In one study, researchers tested families at risk for breast cancer and were able to find 52 previously undetected mutations. NGS also reduces the cost of testing and turn-around time.

With NGS, they can take that information and create a personalized cancer treatment. The process has been used successfully for the treatment of prostate cancer. NGS will enable oncologists to help more patients with targeted cancer treatments.