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May 28, 2018
What is Personalized Medicine?
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What is Personalized Medicine?

In preparation for the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2018 Annual Meeting focused on “Delivering Discoveries: Expanding the Reach of Precision Medicine,” learn how precision medicine and genetic profiling can impact and improve cancer care.

Throughout your cancer journey, you may have heard the terms, ‘personalized medicine’ or ‘molecular profiling,’ but you may not know exactly what they mean. Molecular profiling – the molecular analysis of an individual patient’s tumor – is the tool that physicians use to enact personalized medicine – the tailoring of treatment to the individual patient’s cancer.

Because no two cancers are identical, the molecular characteristics of a tumor vary from one patient to the next. The molecular characteristics of cancer can vary between patients so much that even if two patients are diagnosed with the same cancer, they may respond differently to the exact same treatment since their tumors contain unique molecular signatures that define their cancer. We, at Sarah Cannon, believe personalized medicine is critical for offering the right treatment at the right time to a cancer patient

If your physician determines that you are a good candidate for molecular profiling, a biopsy of your tumor will be analyzed by one of Sarah Cannon’s expert molecular profiling lab partners, where they will look for mutations that might be driving your cancer. Once your oncologist receives the results, a personalized treatment plan based on your tumor profile will be generated.

Molecular profiling relies on analyzing the molecules – DNA, RNA, or protein – within a patient’s tumor. When these molecules are altered, they can cause changes in cells that support tumor growth, cancer cell survival, or resistance to cancer treatment. Analyzing molecular alterations in a patient’s cancer cells uncovers information about the cancer and gives physicians the ability to personalize treatment plans that increase the efficacy of therapies while decreasing the possibility of administering treatments that are not as beneficial to the patient. This approach helps in determining the right drug for the right patient at the right time.

“With a personalized approach, we focus on identifying the specific mutations in a tumor’s genes that might be causing it to grow and divide,” said Holli Hutcheson Dilks, Ph.D., Director of Personalized Medicine Operations at Sarah Cannon. “Those insights can help us to create a personalized treatment plan unique not only to the patient, but to the tumor itself, with the goal of stopping the tumor’s growth and division to ultimately improve the efficacy of the therapies.”

Talk to your oncologist to see if a personalized medicine-based approach involving molecular profiling is right for you in your cancer journey.

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