Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Launches Precision Medicine Program

In an effort to personalize medicine, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center announced a new Precision Medicine program at its cancer center.

Precision medicine, introduced to the nation during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, uses a person’s unique genetic makeup to develop an individualized treatment plan. For cancer, oncologists identify the cancer-associated genes in an individual’s tumor, a process known as genomic sequencing, to pinpoint the individual’s genetic drivers that fuel cancer growth. A unique treatment plan is then designed around the genetic abnormalities and mutations in the person’s tumor.

The new Precision Medicine program will be at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“This is an exciting time for us,” said Boris Pasche, MD, director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We have developed one of the most comprehensive, coordinated efforts around precision medicine. Some of our adult and pediatric patients could greatly benefit from unique therapies in cases that are not responding to standard treatments.”

Precision medicine treatments area ideal for patients with either end-stage cancer, an active cancer that has failed standard therapy, or cancer that is likely to progress despite standard therapies. The approach is not for every cancer patient, since some patients may have cancer with a genetic makeup for which there is no current appropriate precision medicine therapy available. The most common cancers for which genomic sequencing is available include metastatic breast cancer, metastatic colon cancer, lung cancer not successfully removed by surgery, esophageal cancer, abdominal cancers (pancreatic, appendiceal and stomach), advanced prostate cancer, metastatic melanoma and leukemia.

According to Pasche, the goal of precision medicine is to select the most appropriate therapy for each patient’s cancer so they can have the potential of improved health or a longer life, and although it may be an effective alternative to standard chemotherapy, it is not necessarily a stand-alone cure.

Some insurance companies and government payers cover precision medicine treatments on a case-by-case basis. According to the company, nationally, more third-party payers are seeing the value of precision medicine for patients with end-stage cancer since it often offers a therapy that may cost less than re-hospitalization.

“As the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in western North Carolina, we have access to therapies that other facilities do not. Genomic sequencing also means our patients can be better matched to existing and new clinical trials,” said Pasche.

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

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