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Precision Medicine

Precision Medicine Defines a Custom Approach to Care

Precision medicine, also called personalized medicine, is an approach to treating cancer that is customized to each individual patient. More than just treating the disease, precision medicine at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center includes:

  • Cancer screening and prevention tips based on individual cancer risks
  • Treatment that combines the most successful therapies with the least impact of side effects
  • Predicting whether your cancer will return and having a plan if it does

DNA strand

Impact of Genetics on Precision Medicine

A major factor in precision medicine is an individual’s DNA molecules, gene sequences and unique genetic history. Cancer is the result of a genetic malfunction that causes cells to develop out of control, creating tumors. Understanding a person’s complete set of DNA, also called the genome, is the first step in using precision medicine to guide treatment. The more researchers know about genetic sequencing and DNA analysis of cancer tumors, the more specialized treatment options may be available, especially if a person’s cancer stops responding to standard treatment.

To develop individually-tailored treatment plans, doctors must understand many aspects of a patient’s health, including:

  • Genetic makeup
  • Environmental factors
  • Lifestyle choices

U-M’s Precision Oncology Efforts

The foundation of our precision medicine program is the Michigan Oncology Sequencing Program, or Mi-ONCOSEQ. This program, which launched in 2010, involves sequencing the DNA and RNA of metastatic cancers and normal tissue to identify alterations that could help drive treatment. More than 2,000 patients – adults and children, with a variety of cancer types – have had their tumors sequenced through the program.

Results from Mi-ONCOSEQ have demonstrated how precision medicine can potentially help direct cancer treatment. Recently, researchers reported on the first 500 patients sequenced in one of the largest and most comprehensive efforts to examine the genetic and molecular landscape of advanced cancer. The paper was featured on the cover of Nature.

Mi-ONCOSEQ is made available to all U-M patients with metastatic cancer as part of a research protocol.

Basket Trials: A New Approach to Clinical Trials

With a rich history of discovery, the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center was one of the earliest cancer centers to research the sequencing of tumors and begin using that information to guide treatment choices.

That approach is now more widely implemented in a new type of clinical trial known as basket trials. The National Cancer Institute’s MATCH and the American Society of Clinical Oncology-sponsored TAPUR trials are two early examples. U-M participates in both trials.

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