What is precision medicine?
Precision medicine has also been called individualized medicine or personalized medicine. The concept of precision medicine is that physicians use information about a person’s genetic makeup and the genetic mutations found in their cancer to help determine the best plan for cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Before personalized medicine, most patients with a specific type and stage of cancer received the same type of treatment. Over the last decade, science has come to understand that each individual patient’s cancer is different and unique. This has allowed for the development of new treatments which specifically target each patient’s unique form of cancer.
Genetic variants: All people are about 99.9 percent genetically the same. Even so, that 0.1 percent variation equals about 3 million individual genomic variants that differ between any two people. A genetic variation means that there is a change in the DNA sequence that is different from the normal DNA sequence. Some genetic variations are harmless, while others are important causes of the development of cancer. A genetic variant that contributes to cancer risk or the development of cancer is often called a gene mutation. Most genetic mutations in cancer accumulate over a person’s lifetime—they are "somatic." This means that a person is not born with these mutations.
When a person is born with a genetic mutation and that mutation causes an increased cancer risk this is called an inherited cancer syndrome. Some examples of inherited cancer syndromes include having a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, or having a gene mutation that causes Lynch syndrome.
How is genetic testing used in precision medicine?
Genetic tests are performed on the tumor or sometimes a person’s blood to look for genetic mutations that occur in the cancer itself. The results of these tests may help to:
- Determine the chances that a person will develop cancer and select screening strategies or interventions to lower the risk
- Match patients with personalized treatments that are more likely to be effective and cause fewer side effects
- Predict the risk of recurrence, which is the return of cancer, over time
How does TriHealth offer precision medicine?
Targeted Treatments Based on Results of Genetic Testing
Every patient seeking cancer treatment at TCI is considered for genetic testing of their tumor. A physician will determine if genetic testing could be useful for any one specific patient. Once a genetic test identifies the specific problem which allows the cancer cells to grow, physicians can select treatments that specifically attack the abnormal cancer cells. Rather than treating all cancers the same, oncologists can now specifically target treatment to each individual’s unique cancer. The most common cancers that allow for targeted treatments are breast, colon, lung, melanoma, and blood cancers.
Genetic Risk Assessment and Counseling
A genetic test may show that a family has inherited a higher cancer risk. Relatives with and without cancer can benefit from personalized screening and prevention plans. Click here for more information about genetic counseling at TriHealth.
Matching Patients to Clinical Trials Based on Genetic Information
A genetic test may reveal that a patient is a candidate for a clinical trial, which is important to advancing our understanding about cancer treatment, but also give treatment options for patients with advanced disease.