Extraordinary care. Extraordinary caring.
Learn about personalized medicine —
the biggest news in cancer treatment in years.
Cancer has been treated basically the same way for many years. For instance, if a patient had Stage III lung cancer, then they probably received the same surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy as most other Stage III lung cancer patients.
Now, a truly new approach has entered the scene that guides doctors in choosing their treatment weapons more effectively. It’s “personalized medicine” — and it’s made possible by the ability medical researchers have to look at the genes within the DNA of an individual patient’s cancer cells.
One of the biggest breakthroughs in medical science was the ability to sequence the genes within the DNA of human cells in order to identify gene alterations, such as mutations. This is important, because gene alterations are what cause cells to grow out of control — the condition we know as cancer.
Surprisingly, the alterations in cancer cells in one person can be very similar to the cancer cell alterations in another person — even though we’d say they have different kinds of cancer. For instance, one person might have lung cancer and the other cancer of the colon, but the gene alterations in their cells could be quite similar.
Once the gene alterations in a patient’s cancer cells have been identified, doctors can see what treatments have been especially successful in treating other patients with the same alteration in their cancer cells.
Relying on these past success stories allows doctors to develop a treatment plan that’s far more likely to be effective. So now there’s a better chance that the first treatment plan will also be the best treatment plan.
Patients are informed about how genomic sequencing of their cancer cells may impact care.
This may be done through a special biopsy, or as part of an already planned cancer surgery.
A sample of DNA from a patient’s cancer cells is analyzed at a pathology lab using very complex sequencing equipment.
A molecular pathologist reviews the computer data generated from the DNA sequencing and prepares a report.
The patient’s oncologist collaborates with the pathologist to develop a treatment plan that’s personalized to the patient.
Over the years, the Swedish Cancer Institute has cared for more patients than any other Northwest cancer treatment center. Through our affiliate, Swedish’s Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment, we launched our first program to map the gene activity in brain tumors in 2009.
The Swedish Cancer Institute is one of the largest clinical-trial sites in the West. That’s important, because a patient’s personalized treatment plan may suggest that experimental drugs would offer promising results.
The Swedish Cancer Institute offers patients access to the most advanced technologies when appropriate, such as CyberKnife and robotic surgery.
Patients are cared for by a team of more than 600 nationally known surgeons, cancer specialists, nurses and other health professionals.
Cancer takes a toll on the spirit, almost as much as it affects the body. So the Swedish Cancer Institute believes in caring for the whole person — not just the disease.
That’s why we provide counseling and educational services — including such surprisingly helpful activities as art, music, and knitting therapy. Patients can also take advantage of financial counseling, naturopathic care, nutrition advisors, and other services to support their physical and emotional health.
Caring for the whole person also comes down to the little things, like the calming, quiet atmosphere of the True Family Women’s Cancer Center. Here, a soothing environment joins forces with a compassionate staff to reduce stress for patients who are already dealing with plenty of it.
When we talk about caring for the “whole person,” we’re recognizing the many roles a patient plays in life – parent, spouse, employee, child, and more. So we offer classes and support groups for cancer patients’ caregivers to help them cope with what their loved ones are going through.
Genetic counseling and testing is another service for family members that can help them know whether they might be more likely to get the same cancer that’s affecting their relative. Testing can help these family members better understand their risks, and can guide them to take steps to prevent and detect cancer.
The science of personalized medicine is changing rapidly. If you’d like to ask a question about new developments at the Swedish Cancer Institute, please fill out this form and we’ll contact you.
If you’ve been diagnosed and are interested in treatment options or a second opinion, visit the main
Swedish Cancer Institute website
or call for more information between 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Pacific time:
You can be part of the groundbreaking work of the Swedish Cancer Institute by becoming a volunteer or donor. Learn more.