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Precision Medicinefor Cancer

Aurora participates in an initial genetic database containing more than 100,000 cases. Syapse, the software used, received recognition in the federal Cancer Moonshot program and 21st Century Cures Act.


What Is Precision Medicine?

Precision medicine, or personalized medicine, takes tailored cancer care a step further by looking at a tumor’s specific characteristics, or molecular footprint. Doctors have known for a while that some genetic mutations and other changes cause cancer. Occasionally, changes get passed down from parents and are present at birth, but most develop as we grow and age.

We now have two more puzzle pieces: Even among the same type of cancer, the genetic changes driving growth vary, making treatment less of a one-size-fits-all approach. At the same time, a genetic change may appear across cancer types, giving doctors a wider range of evidence to consider. While standard treatments continue to work for many cancers, these findings point toward a newer option: targeted therapy.

Stage 4 Cancer & the Oncology Precision Medicine Clinic

If you have stage 4 cancer that no longer responds to chemotherapy or other standard treatment, the new precision medicine team at Aurora Health Care may be able to help. Those still healthy enough for treatment start by getting tested for tumor mutations. Using special software and an extensive database, your team finds matches with similar tumors across the country. They determine which treatments worked the best and offer you the most promising options.

The Aurora Difference

Top Expertise & Tools for Tailored Treatment

At the Oncology Precision Medicine Clinic, you receive care from one of the state’s first programs dedicated to genetic changes in tumors. Your team uses insights from the latest research to work toward a shared goal: helping you live longer, with a better quality of life. The clinic offers:

  • Expertise: We bring together specialists in medical oncology, pharmacy, pathology, research and genetic counseling. Together, they:
    • Keep up with the latest developments in a rapidly evolving, highly specialized field
    • Spend the time to thoroughly investigate your case
    • Determine which genetic changes are driving tumor growth and may provide treatment targets
  • Options for care: You have two choices for tumor testing. You can get it done at any Aurora cancer clinic with your doctor consulting the precision medicine team. Or you and your loved ones can come to the team’s Milwaukee clinic for face-to-face, in-depth discussion. These direct consultations are not available at most tumor programs.
  • Resources: Advanced software and a partnership with other top centers provide access to an extensive database. Your team searches for other people like you, evaluating their treatment and results. This approach identifies promising medications sooner.
  • Additional support: If you inherited a genetic mutation with a high cancer risk, the clinic team can refer you to genetic counseling and testing at Aurora.

What to Expect

How Personalized Medicine Can Provide Targeted Therapy

The clinic helps people who have cancer that no longer responds to standard treatments or is moving in that direction. The team searches for drugs that control cancer longer than your previous treatments and are easier on your body. The process involves:

  • Genetic sampling: The clinic team prefers to take a new tissue sample (biopsy), because tumor makeup can change over time. But if the tumor is hard to reach or you prefer not to undergo a biopsy, a new blood test may help. The test looks for DNA that tumors may shed into the blood.
  • Testing: A lab examines your DNA for all relevant genetic changes, including genetic mutations.
  • Interpretation: Lab results require interpretation, and the results are not always definitive. Many genetic changes are rare or only recently identified. The clinic team determines which changes are causing the tumor to grow and which don’t pose a threat.
  • Database analysis: The team then turns to the Oncology Precision Network (OPeN). It’s the nation’s largest database for quickly sharing cancer care data between not-for-profit medical programs, including Aurora. Such data otherwise goes unpublished or takes time to release. We enter any genetic changes identified during testing and interpretation and look for people with similarities. The team can see which medications these people received and how effective they were, frequently identifying unexpected treatment options.
  • Treatment: The search identifies newer medications such as targeted therapy or immunotherapy, which harnesses your immune system to fight cancer. The drugs could come through a clinical trial, or your team may have to negotiate to use them for a non-approved (off-label) use. If we don’t find a match, the team may recommend additional chemotherapy.

Contact Us

Contacting the Precision Medicine Clinic

The Oncology Precision Medicine Clinic is located in the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee. You can reach co-director Jennifer Godden at 414-385-5845.

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