Precision medicine is a modern approach to treating a patient based on their individual characteristics.
In the case of brain tumors, this might include identification of genetic mutations in a patient’s tumor cells. This may help guide treatment, as certain medications or targeted therapies are more effective for tumors of a specific genetic profile.
The underlying goal of precision medicine is to understand why individuals respond differently to treatments – which ultimately helps guide more precise and predictive medicine for our patients and beyond.
A precision medicine approach may be especially helpful for some patients with advanced cancer, in particular when there is poor response to standard therapy. Here at UCSF, we have developed a new molecular test called the UCSF500 Cancer Gene Panel. A key component of our Precision Medicine Initiative, the UCSF500 Cancer Gene Panel identifies genetic changes (called mutations) in the DNA of your tumor. This information can help identify which tumor subtype you have. For example, certain astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, and medulloblastomas can be classified into further subtypes based on the mutations found in the tumor. For these tumors, the presence of certain mutations affects prognosis, and may provide information on targeted therapies or clinical trials that may be more effective. Already, some patients have seen dramatic responses as a result of treatments tailored to the molecular profile of their tumors.
Ongoing research is aimed toward better understanding of how specific mutations influence tumor biology, and how to exploit that to develop better, more precise treatment for patients.