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What exactly is ‘precision medicine’ anyway?




what exactly

Each person is unique, from their fingerprints to their DNA. Why, then, is a one-size-fits-all treatment program right for everyone with a particular disease or condition?

This is the basic idea behind the precision medical movement or personalized medicine.

“Precision medicine is a method of providing healthcare that is tailored to a patient’s individual characteristics, right down to the genetic level,” says Dr. Anthony Ruggeri, MD, a hematologist and oncologist at Aurora Saint Luke’s Medical Center.

When devising targeted therapy, precision medicine takes into account not only a person’s environment and lifestyle, but also their DNA. Each person’s DNA is made up of unique genetic patterns and variations that control the functions of the body.

“In a sense, doctors have been personalizing medicine for years,” says Dr. Ruggeri. “We may not treat a middle-aged patient like an elderly patient. But where precision medicine has recently taken a huge step forward is the use of molecular testing to determine a course of treatment based on genetic makeup.”

Modern molecular testing allows doctors to sequence or identify large parts of a person’s DNA and then recommend a specific treatment based on a person’s specific genetic differences.

Recent advances in precision medicine have led to powerful changes in the treatment of disease, particularly in the field of cancer care.


“Cancer researchers have discovered that individual tumors also have unique molecular effects,” explains Dr. Ruggeri. “Even among the same type of cancer, the genetic changes that drive tumor growth will differ.”

By taking a sample of tumor tissue and comparing the tumor’s genetic makeup with other tumors registered in an electronic database, doctors may find a treatment with a history of success against a genetically similar tumor.

For example, the American Society of Clinical Oncology® Target Agent and Use Profiling Log (TAPUR®) The study is now taking place at Advocate Aurora Health cancer clinics across Wisconsin, evaluating precision medicine cancer treatments using dozens of anti-cancer drugs already on the market.

All of the drugs available through the study were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat one type of cancer — but not the FDA approved for the treatment of each study participant’s specific type of cancer. The researchers hope the study will help identify new treatments for different types of advanced cancer.

Want to learn more about research into Advocate Aurora Health? visit

ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and TAPUR are trademarks of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. , used with permission.


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