Precision medicine is changing the landscape of cancer treatment at Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, allowing us to provide our patients with more precise, targeted therapies.

Using the latest DNA sequencing technology, our experienced team of oncologists and geneticists can identify the genetic makeup of a patient’s tumor and tailor treatment to the specific cancer mutations (abnormalities). Our goal is to provide the best individualized cancer therapy designed for you.

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 based on the organ in which it originated, precision medicine looks at cancer on a molecular level. Genomics is one of the main components of precision medicine. It allows us to identify the “Achilles heel” of the tumor, or the genetic drivers that cause cancer.

Once we identify a tumor’s genetic driver, we use that information to match therapies that 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.

Genomic Sequencing Process

To determine the genetic profile of a patient’s tumor and identify cancer-driving genes, our team of experts uses advanced genomic sequencing technology. We learn which specific genes are expressed in cancer cells and how a patient may respond to different therapies, so that we can select the most appropriate targeted treatment for the particular cancer.

As a first step, our physicians review each patient for candidacy to determine if precision medicine may be an effective treatment alternative. Genomic sequencing is most often recommended for patients who:

  • Have active cancer that has failed standard treatment
  • Are active, or spend half or more of the day mobile and out of bed

Next steps include:

  • If the patient’s tumor cells samples are not already in our tumor bank, a tissue sample is taken. The biopsy method depends on the specific cancer.
  • The DNA code of the cancer cells is obtained and analyzed for genetic mutations and abnormalities.
  • A report is generated that may identify cancer-associated genes in the tumor.
  • Our physicians analyze the report and create a treatment strategy.
  • Our physicians share findings and discuss treatment options with the patient.
  • Treatment begins. Depending on test results, a patient may:
    • Take new cancer-fighting therapies
    • Participate in a clinical trial for a drug being studied
    • Take FDA-approved drugs that are repurposed, or used in a different way, to target the specific tumor

Patients will receive a treatment plan within a month after the tissue biopsy. While our goal is to match each patient with the most effective treatment, some patients may have a genetic makeup for which there is no appropriate therapy.

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

Cancers Treated With Precision Medicine

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