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Personalized Medicine in Oncology

Our DNA instructs the cells in our body to perform numerous functions at the molecular level. Usually, our cells follow our genomic blueprint to the letter to keep us healthy and well. But in cancer, genetic alterations—inherited (germline) or acquired (somatic)—can give rise to abnormal cell growth and disease development.

Personalized medicine has greatly improved the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of a wide range of malignant conditions from prostate cancer to brain tumors. At NorthShore, we’ve led the way in identifying the genetic involvement of cancer in patients and their tumors to attack an all too common disease that uniquely affects each person.

We have developed a number of clinical initiatives that have become our standard of care well before other health systems in the region. For example, in neuro-oncology our experts routinely study tissue biomarkers to better predict the prognosis of brain tumor patients to guide treatment. Additionally, our oncology specialists regularly look for genetic variations that are known to respond best to specific molecularly-targeted cancer therapies such as:

  • Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in lung cancer
  • K-ras mutation in colorectal cancer
  • HER-2/neu in breast cancer

The Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine plays a critical role in developing and adopting personalized medicine in oncology, giving us the necessary infrastructure to translate the latest genomic-based findings in cancer to clinical care. The Molecular Diagnostics laboratory recently implemented state-of-the-art Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to rapidly look at large genomic regions involved in cancer and other diseases. Our lab’s unique in-house sequencing capability sets us apart as we can now screen many more cancer genes at once in a single assay. NGS also allows us to run the latest “hot spot” cancer panels, making it possible for us to more precisely identify rare somatic and germline mutations, cancer drivers, biomarkers and therapeutic targets for malignancies of all types from lung to colon cancer.

Our expanding pharmacogenomics expertise also provides us with the resources to determine the best drug treatment for our patients that address their specific cancers.

At NorthShore, patients fighting cancer have just begun to realize the potential of personalized medicine. Through our Program for Personalized Cancer Care (PPCC), we are working to ensure a pipeline of new discoveries to cover the full range of cancer care—from risk assessment and prevention to possible cures.

We are currently involved in a NorthShore clinical trial to investigate a genetic test (Genetic Risk Score test) that can be used to predict the risk of breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. This trial is currently not open for enrollment.