Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is playing a prominent role in the advancement of precision medicine — also called personalized medicine or clinical genomics — for the treatment of cancer and blood
disorders in children and young adults.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute offers one of the country’s most comprehensive precision cancer medicine initiatives, called Profile, which analyzes samples of patients’ tumors for mutations in 300 genes that have been implicated in causing cancer. The aim is to detect
genetic alterations in tumors and potentially identify targeted therapies that are most likely to be effective for individual patients.
In addition, at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's pediatric patients enrolled in our iCAT (individualized cancer therapy) protocol will have their tumor studied for specific genetic alterations that may allow doctors to identify a treatment targeted to their cancer. The goal of the study is to determine how often genetic testing can identify abnormalities and, once identified, how often a specific targeted therapy can be paired with that cancer mutation.
Traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can have the unwanted side effect of destroying healthy cells along with the cancerous cells they are targeting. A promising new approach to cancer treatment, precision medicine uses advanced genetic analysis of the patient’s cancer to help create a targeted treatment plan that can be more effective in killing cancer cells and less damaging to healthy cells.
“Next-generation” sequencing technology has enabled scientists and physicians to analyze the entire DNA of tumor cells to determine the genetic mutations that are driving the cancer. Some genetic changes, or mutations, indicate that a certain drug will be particularly effective, while other mutations might indicate that the tumor is resistant to specific treatments. These findings are invaluable for clinicians, and can lead to smarter treatment plans for patients.
While precision medicine has been used effectively to treat certain malignancies, the question now facing scientists is whether tumor profiling can be more broadly used to help clinicians understand cancer risk and improve treatment and prognosis.
A genetic test can explain why a child or young adult developed cancer and can help to predict whether he/she is at risk for other cancers
Dr. Stuart Orkin, Chair of Pediatric Oncology, describes the outstanding oncology and hematology resources available at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's.