You Are Here: Home > Personalized Medicine

Personalized Medicine

If you wish to print a PDF file of this section please click here.

If you are reading this section as an e-Training course, please read the
e-Training Quiz Introduction first and then return here.



When you are diagnosed with cancer, your life changes in many ways. One of these changes may be hearing new, unfamiliar terms from your doctor concerning your diagnosis and your treatment choices.

One of the new terms you may begin to hear is “personalized medicine.“ What does this really mean, and what are its possible implications for your cancer treatment? In this section of our website, we will help you understand this increasingly used term and the many important considerations it may raise for you and your healthcare team.

We will break this discussion into the following sections:

  • Personalized Medicine & You
  • Understanding Tissue
    (biospecimen) Issues
  • Ethics
  • Molecular Diagnostics

The Big Picture

Personalized medicine is increasingly becoming a goal of healthcare. It is a medical model in which treatment decisions are based on each person's unique:

  • Clinical information (physical examination, past medical history, symptoms, family history, lab and other test results, etc.)
  • “OMIC” biomarkers (genetic, genomic, proteomic, metabolomic biomarkers, etc.)
  • Environmental information (e.g., exposure to environmental factors, lifestyle choices, and personal and cultural values)

Personalized Medicine
Recently Diagnosed
Cancer 101

Because these factors are different for every person, the nature of diseases—including their onset, their course, and how they may respond to drugs or other interventions—is as individual as the patients themselves.

The goal of personalized medicine is to enable your healthcare providers to focus on the multiple factors that make you “you.” Current research is focused on classifying many cancers into subgroups based on different characteristic “omic” profiles and then considering additional characteristics specific to your cancer to optimally treat you as an individual.

Although this may not appear fully “personalized,” as it is based on defined subgroups, it is an important improvement over treatment based on the overall characteristics of one large group with no differentiation based on molecular patterns.


The promise of personalized medicine is to enable accurate predictions
concerning a person's:

  • Risk of developing a disease
  • Disease progression
  • Response to treatment

Image provided by CISN archives. All rights reserved.


The effectiveness of personalized medicine requires translation of biomarker findings into precise diagnostic tests and targeted therapies.

It's All About You

It's important to remember that personalized medicine is not only about “omics,” but is also about you, the healthcare consumer. Every person is different in multiple ways, including their diets, lifestyle choices, levels of stress, exposure to environmental factors, and their individual DNA. Many of these variations play a role in health and disease. People also have different cultural and personal values, all of which must be recognized and respected as you work together with your healthcare team in determining your treatment decisions.

Image provided by CISN archives. All rights reserved.


»The choice is yours: Please note that you can read this portion of our website from beginning to end, or you can skip directly to those sections that you find of the most interest. As with all areas of our website, this section is written to provide you with both informational and supportive resources that may help you through your cancer journey.

For further information on personalized medicine, we encourage you to visit the following sections of our website:



“Content Developed September 1, 2012”

Site Design by: Studio457
CISN Home Page About Us Services CISN Home Page Contact Site Map CISN Home Page CISN Home Page