3 Things to Know About Precision Medicine

You’ve probably seen news stories about “precision medicine” and the White House’s “cancer moonshot,” and wondered how that might impact you, your family, and your community. Genomic medicine – developing medical treatments that are specifically targeted to an individual’s DNA profile – is what precision medicine boils down to, and it offers the hope of answers to the questions presented by a cancer diagnosis: How did my cancer happen? What is the treatment that will kill my cancer cells, but not kill me?

Here are three things to know about precision medicine, and how you can participate in or benefit from it.


  1. Cancers have their own genetic profiles. There are countless genetic variations, in all types of cancer, which make cancer a challenge to treat effectively, and which also give researchers so many possible weapons to use against it. I have several friends who are alive right now because their cancer is being treated at a genomic level, by treatments that flip the “off” switch attached to the gene that’s driving their particular tumors.
  2. Sharing your data is the key to precision medicine – for you, for our nation, and for the entire human race. The more data that is available to researchers, the better for unlocking the secrets of cancer prevention and treatment.
  3. Healthy people can participate in research projects driving precision medicine and disease prevention. The same folks who are working on the cancer moonshot – the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health – are guiding research on cancer prevention that need healthy people to take part in. There’s a full set of specifics on the National Cancer Institute’s website, including efforts to end the disparity in participation from communities of color through the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD)


Not sure how to participate in research? If you’ve ever had genetic testing done, you can contribute that data to research projects. If you’re unsure how to do that, the Genetic Alliance has a toolkit on their Family Health History page that can get you started.

If you’ve received a cancer diagnosis, and want to explore options for precision medicine in your treatment, you can get started with genetic testing through one of Cure Forward’s research partners. You can take a look at the Cure Forward clinical trials, and talk to your oncology team about what your options are for genetic counseling, genetic testing, and participation in a trial.

Science isn’t something that happens only in research labs. It’s also something that people interested in new discoveries that can benefit mankind can actively participate in as “citizen scientists.” Think of it as the ultimate hack – your participation in medical research could lead to a discovery that could save lives. Be a citizen scientist, and become part of the precision medicine movement seeking the answers to cancer, and a host of other diseases.


Casey Quinlan Precision Medicine Advocate

Casey Quinlan Precision Medicine Advocate

Casey Quinlan covered her share of medical stories as a TV news field producer, then got a breast cancer diagnosis five days before Christmas in 2007. She used her research, communication, and comedy skills to navigate treatment, and wrote “Cancer for Christmas: Making the Most of a Daunting Gift” about managing medical care, and the importance of health literate self-advocacy.Her speaking calendar for 2016 includes Academy Health’s National Health Policy Conference, the 7th Patient Engagement, Education and Adherence Summit, the ePharma Summit, the Genetic Alliance’s Building Trustworthiness in PCORnet meeting, and Health Datapalooza.