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Industry Buzz: Penn Medicine Launches Center for Personalized Diagnostics

by | Feb 25, 2015

The University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine’s department of pathology and laboratory medicine has joined forces with its cancer center to create a new center for personalized diagnostics it expects will eventually service a significant part of the Philadelphia area. The intent of the center is to improve the care of Penn’s oncology patients […]

The University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine’s department of pathology and laboratory medicine has joined forces with its cancer center to create a new center for personalized diagnostics it expects will eventually service a significant part of the Philadelphia area. The intent of the center is to improve the care of Penn’s oncology patients by being able to develop targeted treatments based on specific genetic mutations of their cancers. One of the primary goals is to detect resistance mutations that could hamper response to targeted drugs and would therefore call for custom combination therapies—as well as identify patients who would have a poor prognosis undergoing standard therapies. All new and relapsed patients being treated at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center are eventually expected to receive the genomic testing via blood tests and biopsies. Testing began earlier this year. Currently, the center is focused on testing patients with blood cancers and solid tumors. It is testing for 33 genes for heme malignancies and 47 for solid tumors. The heme assay is a laboratory-developed test. The center’s typical turnaround for testing is two weeks—about half the average time for the region, officials said. The center has been focusing on MiSeq sequencing process, which is less labor-intensive than the HiSeq process, to obtain the results relatively quickly. Nearly 80 percent of patients whose cancers have been analyzed to date have had their prognosis or course of treatment altered as a result. “This highlights the incredible clinical utility of utilizing multianalyte-based approaches to cancer diagnostics,” said Robert Daber, Penn Medicine’s technical director of clinical genomics. Although the center remains relatively small, with two directors and five employees in total, it is slowly building momentum. It is currently testing between 30 and 40 patients a month, but that number is growing. By the summer, the center not only plans to expand the number of genes and abnormalities it will be testing, but it will also extend services to oncology patients outside of the Penn Medicine network. Officials said the reach of testing will also include pediatric patients.

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