Personalized Medicine

Our researchers are conducting research to translate laboratory sciences into the most precise treatment options for patients with solid tumor cancers.  One strategy involves developing tools to detect patterns in cancer development, progression and treatment response such as HIDRA, a database containing thousands of medical records and tissue inventories maintained by Cancer Consortium partners, Fred Hutch, UW Medicine, Seattle Children's and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Researchers and clinicians will be  able to explore the database to identify patient backgrounds, behavior, genetics, treatment and response, and translate these findings into better therapies, ultimately improving outcomes for our patients.

The UW's Oncoplex is a multi-marker cancer sequencing test capable of analyzing hundreds of genes simultaneously for mutations.  The team has characterized mutations known to cause cancer variants for which a highly-effective therapy is available. Learn more by watching this video.

UW Medicine's Center for Cancer Innovation (CCI) give patients with advanced cancer access to the very latest research. The CCI includes more than 70 members from nearly a dozen institutions, including UW Medicine, Fred Hutch, University of California, Santa Cruz, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the Institute for Systems Biology, Northwest Medical Specialties and other private oncology practices and data analytics companies. Together, these dedicated researchers and physicians plan to approach cancer treatment using an "all for one" approach.

What is personalized medicine?

Thumbprint graphic representing personalized medicine

Personalized medicine uses a patient’s individual genetic and genomic information to design treatments that are targeted and effective. A person’s genetic variation may predispose an individual to cancer by encoding specific mutations in their DNA. Importantly, specific mutations also signal which tumors are likely to respond to certain therapies. 

This knowledge can lead to individualized precision oncology treatments designed to maximize the likelihood of success by avoiding therapies that won’t work on specific cancer types. By merging a patient’s clinical data with the patient’s genetic and genomic molecular data, the goal of precision oncology is to design targeted therapies that more accurately and precisely treat a patient’s unique cancer profile. 

How does it work?

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule that records our genetic code and contains all of the instructions to build our bodies. An organism’s complete set of DNA is called a genome and is built of linear sequences of four DNA nucleotides, or bases. We call specific series of bases genes, which may code for features such as hair color, or whether you will be right or left handed.

If any of these bases gets out of order on the DNA strand, this is a mutation. Most mutations are harmless, but some inherited variants can put people at higher risk for developing cancer. Further, some mutations are particularly susceptible to certain drugs, leading to targeted therapy.


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