Understanding Personalized Diagnostics

Each cancer can respond differently to treatment based on a patient's genes. With the help of Penn's Center for Personalized Diagnostics (CPD), patients and their oncologists can work together to better understand their situation and aim towards a safer, more effective treatment path.

No Two Cancers Are the Same

We understand that cancer is incredibly personal, affecting you or your loved ones on a variety of levels. That's why our approach to your care is equally precise and personal. We look at individual risk factors, symptoms and treatment decisions that have already been made or considered; then we determine the most effective and least invasive form of treatment.

Cancer is also personal on another level—all the way down to our individual DNA.

Sometimes referred to as “the building blocks of life,” combinations of these 25,000 genes tell our cells which functions to perform and how to interact with one another. Genetic mutations can occur when there are errors, or imperfections, in our genes.

These mutations tell our cells to behave differently than they normally would, possibly causing tumors to grow and thrive. Additionally, they may cause abnormal reactions to traditional treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.

Oftentimes cancer patients are only aware that they carry a mutation once they have been diagnosed and have responded poorly to a common treatment. Penn’s Center for Personalized Diagnostics (CPD) aims to help patients and their doctors understand their genetic makeup early on, to make the most of their treatment.

The Benefits of a Personalized Genetic Profile

Rapid advances in technology and personalized diagnostics have made it possible to understand the genetic make-up of an individual tumor and the biochemical instructions it follows. Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, a regular biopsy or blood sample may be all your doctor needs to help.

Armed with this information, physicians, oncologists and genetic counselors have a much clearer picture of how your body and cancer interact.

An Ability to Customize Treatment

A genetic profile of cancer cells can show which specific mutations are causing a person's individual cancer to spread.

Studying these genes allows pathologists, scientists and oncologists to better understand the intricate ways our bodies may react to different treatments.

Most important perhaps, a genetic profile can significantly reduce the time that conventional treatment approaches impose on the patient.

A Life-Changing Decision

Personalized diagnostics made a major difference for Mark and Kim. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, Mark thought he had no choice but to receive chemotherapy.

A genetic screening at Penn showed Mark that he actually carried a rare mutation that less than four percent of lung cancer patients carry. Thanks to his test, Mark and his oncologist found a clinical drug being tested specifically for that mutation. It quickly shrunk 80 percent of his tumor and turned his life around.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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