Genomics is the study of all the genes in the human body, including what they do and how they interact with one another. The body contains more than 20,000 genes — the genome — coded into the person’s DNA. Genomics is more comprehensive than genetics, which is the study of specific genes and how they are passed down through a family line.
How Genomics Helps Cancer Patients
The goal of genomics is to better understand how changes in the human genetic makeup cause disease, which our doctors can then use to improve health care by understanding more about prevention and treatment.
For people with cancer, genomic testing may offer more customized treatment plans, in which your cancer cell genome is compared to cancer cell genomes of many other patients previously treated for the same type of cancer. If mutations in your cancer cell genome match specific mutations in other cancer genomes, your doctor may be able to offer a new treatment that worked well for these other patients.
Our experts may recommend genomic testing for cancers that do not respond well to the first course of treatment, or if you have a rare form of cancer.
What to Expect with Genomic Testing
The first step to genomic testing is to take a biopsy of the tumor to obtain cancer cells. Depending on the type of cancer and where it is located, you may get the biopsy at a Dignity Health hospital. Your oncologist will send the tumor cell sample to a lab, where scientists analyze the genome.
The risk of such testing is that while the field of genomics is advancing, the information scientists have uncovered about the genetics of cancer is still limited. Talk with your oncologist and nurse navigator about whether genomic testing is a good option for you.
Dignity Health Cancer Institute of Greater Sacramento offers genomic testing in Sacramento and surrounding areas for patients searching for alternative treatments for cancer.