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Personalized Medicine

Even though cancers may be found in the same part of the body and look almost the same under the microscope, we now understand that they can be quite different. That difference often appears in how that tumor type responds to therapy. More and more, that difference in response to treatment can reflect the changes that are found in the DNA of the tumor. That’s why Moffitt Cancer Center looks at every patient’s cancer individually. We start with a diagnosis that tries to identify the specific DNA changes in the tumor and then create a treatment plan that has the best chance of beating your cancer. Our team approach makes sure a full range of specialists are working together to look at your cancer from every viewpoint.

The most important goal of personalized medicine at Moffitt is to create and share new, targeted treatments that will improve results, cure disease, extend survivorship and improve quality of life for patients no matter where they live. This is practiced through existing clinical programs as well as continuing research into how best to develop the right diagnosis and treatment plan for each individual.

The following FAQs provide general answers to questions that patients may ask: 

What is Personalized Medicine?

Moffitt hopes to match cancer treatments to the genetics of each patient and the genetic changes in their tumors. This approach is known as personalized medicine. Sometimes you will hear it referred to as precision medicine.

What is Moffitt’s goal in the personalized medicine approach?

One of Moffitt’s goals in the personalized medicine approach has been the creation of the Department of Individualized Cancer Management. This department includes five significant and clinically focused departments under the leadership of Dr. Howard McLeodAdolescent & Young Adult, Gene Home, Genetic Risk Assessment Service, Personalized Cancer Medicine and the Senior Adult Oncology Program.  The Personalized Cancer Medicine department consists of the Personalized Medicine Clinical Service (PMCS) and Clinical Genomics Action Committee (CGAC). PMCS and CGAC were developed as pathways to translate the results of the genomic testing. PMCS provides consultation and explains the results of the tumor genetic sequencing results for Moffitt patients. PMCS also serves as a resource to Moffitt doctors for input and opinions about what should be done related to personalized medicine. CGAC serves as Moffitt’s exclusive molecular tumor board and includes a team of people with different backgrounds and expertise from various disciplines. Dr. McLeod, a reknown expert on the role of genetics on the person’s response to cancer therapies, is the medical director for the DeBartolo Family Personalized Medicine Institute.

What is personalized care? How does personalized medicine impact the patient and influence treatment?

No two individuals are alike, even identical twins. Health care should not be a one size fits all approach either. Personalized care takes into consideration all aspects of a patient's health history, laboratory tests that provide unique insights into the diagnosis, treatment options and patient preferences to come up with a treatment plan. Personalized care brings us closer to our patients.

What are genes and genetics?

DNA is considered the blueprint of life and contains the instructions to make our bodies and all that is necessary to make them work. The alphabet for these instructions contains only four "letters" (C, T, A, and G). The entire vocabulary consists of only 3-letter "words." These words are used to form "sentences," or more specifically, "genes.” DNA is found inside every cell in our body.

Genes determine eye color, hair color and risk for disease. There are also genes that tell the cell when to grow and divide and when not to. For example, even though there are instructions to make our noses in every cell of the body, fortunately we don’t keep growing new noses throughout our life. However, that message for a cell to stop growing is lost in cancer and cells continue to multiply and divide and form a tumor.

Genetics is the study of how genes are passed to you from your parents. Although cancer can run in families, cancer isn’t passed from parents to children. However, individuals can inherit from their parents a greater chance that cancer develops over the course of their lifetime.

Can I make an appointment to meet with someone to discuss my risk for developing cancer?

Genetic risk assessment is a focused way to evaluate someone’s risk of developing cancer. To learn more about how genetics can influence your individual cancer risk, or to schedule a visit for a genetic risk assessment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. No referral is required to seek treatment at Moffitt.

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