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Cancer Biomakers and Molecular Testing

Cancer biomarkers—typically genes, gene products, or proteins—are substances that can be detected and measured in parts of the body like blood or tumor (cancer) tissue.

Molecular profiling of any patient’s tumor identifies their disease biomarker pattern that then allows that patient’s medical team to select personalized treatment options that they may not have previously considered.

At the Ruesch Center, we facilitate access to this service. If you have cancer and wish for it to be molecularly profiled, you will first have a sample of your tumor taken. This sample is called a “biopsy” and your doctor will explain the sampling procedure to you. The biopsy is sent to a laboratory—usually at Caris Life Sciences or, through Perthera Inc., at Foundation Medicine, and Theranostics Health—where it will undergo advanced pathology and molecular (gene, gene product, and protein) testing to identify the unique biomarkers of your cancer. These unique biomarkers are then matched with published research by the world’s leading cancer researchers to identify the best treatments for you. “A list of positively and negatively associated treatments is provided to your doctor in the form of a report. Your doctor can then use this report to personalize your treatment plan by selecting treatments tailored to your tumor’s unique molecular characteristics”(Caris). See www.MyCancer.com.

Molecular profiling can be useful at any time after a cancer diagnosis. It can be helpful in deciding which is the best treatment when a number are available to you; it can also provide guidance if you have exhausted all available standard treatment options or have a particularly rare or aggressive cancer. Tumor profiling services provide patients and their oncologists with a list of all available options, including clinical trials. To learn more, talk to your Ruesch oncologist or other doctor, who will help find a tumor-profiling specialist for you.

If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, you can refer to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Know Your Tumor® Website.  Know Your Tumor® is a precision medicine service that, in partnership with Perthera Inc., provides eligible pancreatic cancer patients and their oncologists with thorough tumor molecular profiling data. Again, you and your healthcare team will then have access to information about treatments available to you, including clinical trials. “Perthera's molecular profiling service combines genomic data from Foundation Medicine, proteomic data from Caris Life Sciences, and phosphoproteomics data from Theranostics Health” (Perthera).

Caris Life Sciences, Foundation Medicine, and Theranostics Health use CLIA-certified laboratories for their molecular testing procedures.

Common treatment predictive biomarkers for a number of GI cancers include wild type versus mutated RAS, BRAF, and MMR (microsatellite instability [MSI]), as well as HER2 and, in the case of pancreatic cancer, BRCA. The tumor profiling services discussed above provide even more extensive biomarker testing, which enables further tailoring of cancer therapies to individual patients and their tumors, and hopefully more successful treatment.

Molecular Testing for Clinical Trials

Targeted and immune therapies make up the basis of personalized treatment—the treatment of each patient as an individual according to his or her personal biology or genetic make up. This method of treatment avoids much of the toxicity caused by generalized “cell-killing” chemotherapy.

The research community has worked hard to develop therapies that “target” a number of the abnormal gene and protein functions within a cancer cell. Depending on the gene or protein that is being homed in on, this therapy may, for example, halt cell division, induce cell death, stop the formation of blood vessels that feed cancer cells, or activate the immune system to recognize cancer cells as alien and kill them.

Molecular testing for the presence or absence of the specific gene and/or protein abnormality being targeted in a clinical trial will decide your trial eligibility.
View our active clinical trials information.