A Personalized Approach to Medicine Improves Patient Care

By Dr. Petros Nikolinakos

Forty-year-old Michael received the news no one wants to hear: He has lung cancer, with a life expectancy of only about six more months.

That was 12 years ago.

Michael, a father of two, was one of University Cancer & Blood Center’s early patients to receive a targeted cancer treatment personalized to his type of lung cancer, also known as personalized medicine. At UCBC, our physicians use tumor-profiling tests to determine if a patient will benefit from personalized medicine tailored to their specific cancer.

For Michael, his treatment with a targeted cancer drug has not only extended his life, it has minimized side effects resulting in a better quality of life. His cancer is now undetectable on imaging.

When it comes to treating cancer, no illness is the same and no patient is the same. Personalized medicine allows the medical team to examine a patient’s cancer to see what is driving the cancer, and then create a plan to attack that cancer in the best way for the patient while minimizing side effects. While sometimes using chemotherapy is the right approach, it hits the whole body targeting good and bad cells resulting in possibly severe side effects. In some cases, personalized medicine is a treatment option which is more finely tuned than chemotherapy, targeting just the bad cells and decreasing side effects.

Here’s how personalized medicine works:

  • Diagnostic tests, which can now be performed with a simple blood test, help identify abnormal changes in cancer genes, known as mutations. Knowing these mutations allows doctors to better understand what is driving a particular patient’s cancer.
  • Once this information is known, it can assist the physician in determining if the patient is a candidate for a cancer drug targeting that specific mutation.

We are one of the leading community practices using tumor profiling to gain the most knowledge about a patient’s cancer on a genetic level, resulting in potential personalized medicine options. At UCBC, we’re using new technology and with more than 45 clinical trial options, patients gain access to cutting-edge therapies close to home.

Understanding what makes a patient’s cancer function is like finding the on-switch for the disease. Using targeted treatments can turn that switch off, resulting in better outcomes while minimizing side effects for the patient. That’s personalized medicine, and we’re doing that right here in your community.