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Precision Medicine

Precision medicine in cancer treatment, or precision oncology, is also called “personalized medicine” and is a rapidly evolving approach to cancer treatment and prevention that allows physicians to select treatments that are most likely to help patients based on a genetic understanding of their disease.

Precision medicine is a type of targeted therapy that uses information about genetic changes in the tumor, also known as molecular profile of the tumor, to help decide which treatment will work best for an individual with cancer. Precision medicine is an exciting additional tool that may offer treatment solutions for rare and pediatric diseases with historically limited options. For example, the same cancer-causing genetic changes may be found in different types of cancer. As a result, patients with tumors that share the same genetic change receive the drug that targets that change, regardless of the type of cancer.

With the rapid evolution in technology, genetic changes in the tumor are being identified in tumor samples (tissue biopsy), and in blood samples (liquid biopsy) of individuals with cancer. Special labs with equipment to sequence the DNA perform what are called genomic testing, molecular profiling, or tumor profiling.

Some people have inherited gene mutations, such as BRCA, that give them a higher risk for developing certain types of cancer, but these gene mutations are not necessarily indicative of cancer itself. Texas Oncology’s Genetic Risk Evaluation and Testing Program can help determine if this type of genetic testing, germline testing, is appropriate.

While all genetic changes that can cause cancer to develop, grow, and spread have not yet been discovered, significant progress is being made every day. As specific genetic changes are discovered, new drugs are being developed and treatments are being designed to target these genetic changes in tumors. Many new cancer treatments include biomarker inclusion/exclusion criteria as do many clinical trials.

Precision oncology is now standard of care for most community oncology practices and academic medical centers. With more research into genetic changes that drive cancer cells to divide and grow, more patients in the future will be able to receive personalized cancer treatments based upon the genetics of their tumor.

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