Dana-Farber Experts Share Five Things You Should Know About Precision Medicine

Posted: February 18, 2015 at 5:41 am

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Newswise BOSTON President Barack Obama is requesting an increase of $215 million in the 2016 federal budget to launch the Precision Medicine Initiative. This boost in funding for research will give genetic causes of cancer a national focus specifically around precision or personalized treatments for cancer in the future.

Here are some facts about precision medicine:

1) What is precision or personalized medicine?

Physicians have long recognized that the same disease can behave differently from one patient to another, and that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Precision medicine makes diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases more accurate, using the specific genetic makeup of patients (and, in cancer, of their tumors) to select the safest and most effective treatments for them.

In cancer, precision medicine involves testing DNA from patients tumors to identify the mutations or other changes that drive their cancer. Then a treatment for a particular patients cancer that best matches, or targets, the culprit mutations in the tumor DNA is used. While such therapies are not widespread yet, many cancer specialists believe precision treatments will be central to the future of cancer care.

2) Do all patients receive precision or targeted treatment?

Not all patients need targeted therapy to treat their type of cancer. The use of targeted therapies is meant for patients whose tumors have specific gene mutations that can be blocked by available drug compounds. Patients who have mutations in certain types of genes, who have mutations that are beyond the reach of available drugs, or whose tumor cells lack identifiable mutations generally would not be candidates for personalized medicine treatments.

According to the National Cancer Institute, a patient is a candidate for a targeted therapy only if he or she meets specific criteria, which vary depending on the disease. These criteria are set by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) when it approves a specific targeted therapy.

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Dana-Farber Experts Share Five Things You Should Know About Precision Medicine

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