Frequently Asked Questions about Precision Oncology

What is precision medicine?

Precision medicine is a personalized approach to treating cancer based on a patient’s individual genetic makeup. While traditional methods treat cancer by disease type, precision medicine looks at specific cancer-associated genes in cells and then targets the “Achilles Heel” of the tumor, or the genetic drivers that cause cancer. 

Therapies are matched to pinpoint and destroy specific genetic abnormalities and mutations in a patient’s tumor, while sparing normal cells. Genomic sequencing, a process used to determine the genetic makeup of a patient’s cancer, may reveal that medications not conventionally used for cancer can effectively treat your cancer.

Am I a candidate for precision medicine?

Our personalized oncology team will determine if precision medicine may be an option by reviewing your medical history, imaging scans, lab tests and treatment history. Genomic sequencing is most often recommended for adult and pediatric patients who: 

  • Have active cancer that has failed standard treatment
  • Have a high risk of relapse or progression
  • Spend 50 percent or more of the day mobile and out of bed

What cancers can be treated with precision medicine?

We offer genomic sequencing for most liquid and solid cancers that have not responded to treatment. Some examples include:

  • Abdominal cancers like pancreatic, appendiceal and stomach cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Head and Neck Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer not successfully resected by surgery
  • Melanoma
  • Metastatic breast cancer
  • Metastatic colon cancer
  • Metastatic prostate cancer
  • Ovarian cancer

We do not treat cancers that are responding to the current therapy.

What can I expect during the genomic sequencing process?

Genomic sequencing is used to determine the genetic makeup of a patient’s cancer. During this process, a sample of the tumor’s DNA is sequenced and compared to the human genome to look for genetic abnormalities or alterations in the tumor. Learn more about this process.

When will I get my sequencing results?

Typically, you will receive your sequencing results and a treatment plan within a month after your tissue biopsy is taken.

What are possible treatment options? 

Our physicians will work closely with each patient to identify a customized treatment plan. Depending on your test results, you may:

  • Take new cancer-fighting therapies
  • Take a drug not traditionally used to treat cancer that has been repurposed, or used in a different way, to target your tumor
  • Or, you may enroll in a clinical trial for a novel therapy that is being studied

While many patients will receive a suggested treatment plan, there may not be a therapy that is an appropriate match for some patients, depending on their genetic makeup.

What is the cost of genomic sequencing?

Over the past few years, the cost of genomic sequencing has significantly decreased, making it a more affordable option for patients. While several insurance companies reimburse for genomic sequencing, reimbursement cannot be guaranteed. 

For example, Medicare, Medicaid and several other insurers approve on a case-by-case basis. Medcost insurance covers 100 percent of the cost of sequencing and covers additional charges based on the patient’s co-pay.

Patients should ask their insurance company and be prepared to pay the costs, if necessary. We are happy to discuss payment specifics with you.  

Will genomic sequencing show if I have a hereditary risk for cancer?

In some instances, precision medicine may unveil unsuspected hereditary risk for cancer. Such findings may help identify the occurrence of other cancers and help prevent cancer in your blood relatives.

Will precision medicine cure my cancer?

Precision medicine is an effective alternative to standard chemotherapy for many patients, but it is not necessarily a cure. Our goal is to select the most appropriate therapy for your individual cancer so that you can enjoy improved health and a longer, better life. 

Why should I choose the Comprehensive Cancer Center? 

The Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist is a proven leader in cancer treatment and research. We are one of only 45 cancer centers in the nation designated as “comprehensive” by the National Cancer Institute – an accolade that translates into our patients having access to the latest technologies, cancer treatments and research available. In addition:

We are dedicated to finding new treatment methods that will improve cancer care for our patients, with a diverse portfolio of clinical trials exploring novel therapeutic approaches like precision medicine and gene therapy.

We have access to the latest advances in genomics research and precision oncology through Wake Forest Baptist’s Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine Research.

Our physicians and surgeons, consistently voted among the Best Doctors in America, have advanced expertise in oncology, precision medicine and genomics and are knowledgeable about all types of cancer. They work in multidisciplinary teams with other experts across the Medical Center and specialize in treating patients with compassionate, patient- and family-centered care.

All of our cancer care services are conveniently housed in one location for patients. We have a state-of-the-art facility with the latest technologies and resources available. We are committed to providing the best care for you.

Learn more about our accreditations and the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Find a Doctor Ways to Give


Contact Us

Contact Us

For more information or to see if you qualify for DNA sequencing, please call 336-716-WAKE.

Last Updated: 09-09-2016
Comprehensive Cancer Centers National Designation is RenewedMagnet Hospital RecognitionConsumer Choice2015 Best DoctorsJoint Commission Report

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.

© Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157. All Rights Reserved.