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Personalized Medicine

At the Swedish Cancer Institute, we practice personalized medicine every day. We combine the newest, most advanced science with extraordinary medicine and patient-centered care in order to develop a care plan that’s personalized for you. Our approach ensures the best treatment pathway for you right from the start. Personalized medicine is the most comprehensive, effective and efficient approach to cancer care.

As medicine has advanced, we’ve learned that each person’s genetic make-up can impact their risk for developing certain diseases as well as influence how they respond to treatment. In personalized medicine, also known as precision medicine, doctors use gene sequencing to identify your unique genetic profile. Your genetic profile helps doctors determine strategies for disease prevention, guide disease diagnosis and create optimized treatment plans.

Gene sequencing, in particular, Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS), is the newest enhancement to the Swedish Cancer Institute’s tradition of innovation.

Not all cancers are alike. Just as your “genetic fingerprint” determines the color of your hair and eyes, a tumor’s “genomic fingerprint” defines the cancer cells. Identifying a tumor’s genomic fingerprint is called gene sequencing. This science is helping many of our patients get the best cancer treatment.

How gene sequencing works:

  • A small tissue sample is collected from a tumor and sent to a laboratory where state-of-the-art equipment pulls out the DNA to determine the order (or sequence) of the cells in the tumor.
  • The gene sequence is processed in a database that catalogs gene abnormalities that are linked to certain kinds of cancer.
  • A gene-sequencing report identifies treatment options that have been effective for other patients with the same gene abnormality. This information helps avoid potentially ineffective treatments and gets the patient on the correct treatment pathway more quickly.

Gene sequencing allows cancer specialists at the Swedish Cancer Institute to identify gene abnormalities in cancer cells and then personalize cancer treatments for those specific abnormalities — independent of where the cells or tumors are located. This information allows us to create a customized treatment plan that will work best for you.

During your first visit, your cancer specialist will talk with you about gene sequencing of your cancer cells and how it may affect your care.

CellNetix needs a small tissue sample in order to run the gene-sequencing tests. Sometimes the tissue sample is collected through a biopsy, which is usually an outpatient procedure. Or, the tissue sample may be collected as part of a surgery to remove or reduce the size of the tumor.

The tissue sample is preserved and sent to CellNetix for testing.

Pathologists at CellNetix use high-tech equipment to pull out the DNA and identify the tumor’s genomic fingerprint and gene abnormalities. They also collect additional information about the tumor using a variety of other tests.

Pathologists compare the gene-sequencing information from your tissue sample to information from other patients, which is contained in existing databases. They look for similar gene abnormalities and the treatments that have worked well on those particular abnormalities.

In about 10-14 days, the pathologist sends your cancer specialist a report that lists treatments and therapies that have been effective with other patients who have the same or similar cell abnormalities. The report also references any clinical trials of investigational treatments that might be appropriate. Because the Swedish Cancer Institute is one of the leading sites on the West Coast for clinical trials, cancer specialists are participating in more than 100 studies of new drugs, therapies or procedures at any given time. This gives patients access to many treatments that may not be available elsewhere.

Your cancer specialist evaluates the report, along with your medical and family history, drug tolerance and surgical limitations, and personalizes a treatment plan — just for you.

We provide an environment, resources and support that attend to your physical, psychological, social and other needs. And because we acknowledge that you may have developed many important personal relationships long before your battle with cancer began, we also offer educational and supportive services that are designed specifically for your families and caregivers.

Not all cancers are alike and each cancer has its own unique features. The use of molecular testing is rapidly increasing to identify these unique features and to guide the best cancer treatment options. To improve cancer care, it is important to evaluate the molecular information of cancer with a person’s other clinical information.

The SCI PMRP study asks patients’ permission to collect and study information that has been generated during their clinical care to: 

  1. Determine if molecular information helps in selecting the best treatment for a patient’s cancer.
  2. Identify clinical trials, which study whether certain medications might provide better treatment and be safer for patients. 
  3. Identify new markers (substances in the body such as genetic materials and proteins related to cancer) that might predict how patients with cancer will do over time, including how they might respond to cancer treatments.
  4. Develop a personalized medicine database that can serve as a resource for future research/data mining.
  • About Personalized Medicine at Swedish

    We combine the newest, most advanced science with extraordinary medicine and patient-focused care in order to customize your unique treatment.

  • Genomic Medicine

    Genomic Medicine is a powerful tool in our personalized medicine program.

  • Supportive Care

    We understand cancer impacts the body, as well as the mind and spirit. We provide support on all levels, treating the whole person - not just the disease.