Every person is unique, from fingerprints to DNA. So why should a one-size-fits-all treatment program be appropriate for any person with a particular disease or condition?
That’s the basic idea behind the precision medicine, or personalized medicine, movement.
“Precision medicine is a means of providing healthcare that is tailored to a patient’s individual characteristics, down to the genetic level,” says dr. Antony Ruggericphysician hematology and oncology at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center.
When devising a targeted treatment, precision medicine takes into account not only a person’s environment and lifestyle, but also his DNA. Each person’s DNA is made up of unique gene patterns and variations that regulate bodily functions.
“In a sense, doctors have been personalizing medicine for years,” says Dr. ruggeri. “Maybe we don’t treat a middle-aged patient the same as an older patient. But where precision medicine has recently taken a monumental step forward is the use of molecular testing to determine a course of treatment based on genetic makeup.”
Modern molecular testing allows doctors to sequence or identify large portions of a person’s DNA and then recommend specific treatment based on a person’s specific genetic variations.
Recent advances in precision medicine have led to powerful changes in the treatment of disease, especially in cancer care.
“Cancer researchers have found that individual tumors also have unique molecular footprints,” explains Dr. Ruggeri out. “Even in the same type of cancer, the genetic changes that drive tumor growth will vary.”
By taking a tumor tissue sample and comparing the tumor’s genetic makeup to that of other tumors recorded in an electronic database, doctors can find a treatment with a history of success against a tumor that is genetically similar.
For example, the American Society of Clinical Oncology® Targeted Agent and Profiling Utilization Registry (TAPUR®) study now underway at Advocate Aurora Health cancer clinics across Wisconsin is evaluating precision drug cancer treatments with dozens of anticancer drugs already on the market.
The drugs available through the study are all approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat any type of cancer, but are not FDA-approved to treat each study participant’s specific type of cancer. Researchers hope the study will help identify new treatments for many different types of advanced cancer.
Would you like to know more about research at Advocate Aurora Health? Visit aah.org/research.
ASCO, American Society of Clinical Oncology, and TAPUR are trademarks of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc., used with permission.