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Personalized Medicine

At Mission Health, personalized medicine focuses on using genetics to predict how patients will respond to a medication. It has the potential to replace the trial-and-error approach to drug treatment to manage cancer and other chronic diseases. Personalized medicine testing provides patients and their healthcare providers with information that could help reduce bad side effects from medications and increase medication effectiveness.

Mission Health is one of the few community health systems in the U.S. to develop a Personalized Medicine Program. Currently these programs are mainly found at major medical centers and institutions.

Personalized medicine offers a scientific, individually guided approach to predict a patient’s response to anti-cancer treatment, with the potential to replace the trial-and-error approach to drug treatment to manage cancer and other chronic diseases.

Mission’s Personalized Cancer Medicine Program utilizes genetic or genomic testing whenever possible to identify specific mutations in a patient’s tumor and target those mutations with specific drugs.

Soon the program will utilize not only the genetic information found in the tumor, but also the genetic information the patient has inherited from his/her parents to further enhance treatment for each patient.

By utilizing both types of genetic information (from the tumor and inherited), cancer patients will have the opportunity to receive cutting-edge care locally, potentially reduce severe side effects from drugs and take drugs at a dose that their body can tolerate.

What is a Personalized Cancer Medicine Program?

A Personalized Medicine Program integrates all relevant information to enhance care for individuals and populations, including family history, lifestyle, demographic, genetic and genomic factors.

Together with studies from clinical research, this information is utilized to individualize care and management of disease, especially for chronic conditions. Mission’s Personalized Cancer Program focuses on enhancing care for the cancer patient.

What are the goals and vision for this program?

Our overall goal is to enhance and optimize the quality, safety and effectiveness of the care of each individual cancer patient using evidence-based practices.

Mission’s Personalized Medicine Program will initially focus on predicting an individual cancer patient’s response to anti-cancer drugs based on the genetic or molecular characteristics of the patient’s tumor.

Whenever possible, we will also utilize genetic characteristics of the individual patient to minimize toxicity and maximize effectiveness of drug therapy.

How does personalized medicine work?

In cancer patients, tests are performed on the patient’s individual tumor to analyze mutations that are associated with tumor growth. We then try to match the tumor mutation(s) to drugs that target those mutations.

By using “targeted therapy” we can utilize the most effective drug to target (and hopefully destroy) the tumor cells that carry the mutation, thereby not destroying normal cells in the process. This should lead to less toxicity and more effective management of the cancer.

Why is this of value to patients and providers?

Using genetic and molecular information to guide treatment decisions provides a more science-based, rather than trial-and-error approach, to treating each individual cancer patient.

Providing these cutting-edge services at Mission gives patients and their families the opportunity to receive this care locally.

Building on the existing expertise at Mission, the Personalized Medicine Program prepares our region for the practice of genomic medicine--utilizing the most important and evidence-based information to help manage our patients with cancer and other chronic diseases.

For more information about Personalized Medicine for cancer patients, click here.

For further information about the Personalized Medicine Program and Services please contact our Program Coordinator at 828-213-1044.

The clinic helps clinicians and patients better manage medications and helps predict future medication therapy responses. Although there are not tests for every drug or all types of conditions, there are many drug responses that we can test for today.

Our team strives to ensure that each patient has an exceptional experience. The clinic visit will include:

  • Meeting with our multidisciplinary team including a medical geneticist and a clinical pharmacist who is specialized in the genetics of drug response. A certified genetic counselor is available if needed.
  • Receiving education about the benefits and limitations of genetic testing for drug response.
  • A follow-up visit to review test results. No changes to care will be made; only a consultation to review results. All results and an interpretative review will be sent to the referring physician.

For further information about the Personalized Medicine Program and Services please contact our Program Coordinator at 828-213-1044.

*PLEASE NOTE: All patients seen in our clinic must have a physician referral. Click here for the referral form.

What is genetics?

  • Genetics is a field of medicine that looks at how genes work and how our genes affect our health. Genetics is one of many factors to help understand our health and well-being.
  • Genes are the biological instructions that tell the body how to grow and function. Genes control traits like hair and eye color. Genes also control the function of organs and tissues in the body and influence how we respond to medications.
  • Every person has inherited small differences in the “spelling” of their genes. These differences are called variants. Most of these differences are harmless and simply make a person unique. In some cases, genetic variants affect the function of the body.
  • For more information on genetic testing for disease risk, please click here.

What are the differences between personalized medicine testing and other more traditional genetic tests about disease risk?

  • Both personalized medicine testing for drug response and traditional genetic testing for disease risk look at your genes and variations that you inherit from your parents and that are passed down from generation to generation.
  • Traditionally, genetic tests have been used to diagnose a disease or to predict if someone is likely to get a disease, such as Huntington’s disease or inherited forms of breast cancer. These tests focus on disease risk.
  • Personalized medicine testing looks at genetic variants that relate to how a drug may work in your body, including the risk that you may have a bad response to a drug or the risk that a drug might not work for you. These tests focus on risks related to drug responses, not diseases.

What are the limitations of personalized medicine testing?

  • Personalized medicine testing may help predict your response to certain drugs. However, there are not tests for every drug or all types of conditions. It is also possible that the results of the testing will not help you and your physician in managing your care.
  • Personalized medicine testing is one of many factors that affect how your body responds to medications. Other important factors include age, weight, health and the other drugs you are taking. Personalized medicine testing is used in combination with your other clinical findings.
  • Because personalized medicine testing is a new and rapidly advancing area of medicine, current tests may not give you all the information to predict how you will respond to a particular drug. The personalized medicine tests we use today to help make decisions about your medications could change or grow in the future as new information is learned.

Should I have personalized medicine testing?

To get the most out of this testing, you and your physician should consider the following:

  • The condition that you have and the drug therapies that are available to treat the condition
  • Your history of drug-related side effects and/or other bad drug reactions
  • The intended uses and limitations of these tests

How will genetic testing for drug response affect my family?

  • Genetic variations related to drug response are inherited. This means that some of the variants you have inherited may be shared by others in your family.
  • It is important to note, however, that your results may not be relevant for your other family members.
  • Personalized medicine testing is really only relevant if your other family members are taking the same drug as you or taking a drug in the same category.
  • To get the best picture of how genetics affects drug response in your family members, testing should be performed for each individual family member.

How are the results of my personalized medicine testing protected?

  • All patient health information (PHI), including genetic test results, is protected through Mission Health's patient privacy policies and practices.
  • In addition, a Federal law, called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), generally makes it illegal for health insurance companies, group health plans and most employers (those with 15 or more employees) to discriminate against you based on your genetic information.
  • Be aware that GINA does not protect you against genetic discrimination by companies that sell life insurance, disability insurance or long-term care insurance.

For further information about the Personalized Medicine Program and Services please contact our Program Coordinator at 828-213-1044.