People diagnosed with cancer understandably reach for the very best that medical science has to offer. That motivation is increasingly driving people to ask to have the DNA of their tumors sequenced. And while that's useful for some malignancies, the hype of precision medicine for cancer is getting far ahead of the facts.
It's easy to understand why that's the case. When you hear stories about the use of DNA sequencing to create individualized cancer treatment, chances are they are uplifting stories. Like that of Ben Stern.
In the spring of 2016, Stern was diagnosed with a deadly brain cancer, glioblastoma. His doctors at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins promptly treated him with surgery, then over the months, chemotherapy and radiation. He even got on a clinical trial to see if a leading edge drug called a checkpoint inhibitor would work.
Ben Stern found out abruptly that wasn't doing the trick either, when he was struck with a seizure. "My whole right side clenched up and [my wife] Tara had called 911 in the middle of it."