Personalized Medicine Across the Hospital

Genetic Information offers physicians a powerful tool to individualize patient care. 

“Personalized medicine is a revolutionary way of practicing medicine in which a person’s biological profile—his or her very own genes— helps guide individualized, lifelong health care,” says Alexander Judkins, MD, pathologist in chief at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and executive director of the Center for Personalized Medicine.

This powerful new approach has the potential to reduce the risk of developing diseases for which patients are genetically predisposed—such as obesity, diabetes or brain disorders—and guide treatment plans for patients with cancer or neurological disorders like schizophrenia or depression. In the future, it may well become common to sequence a newborn’s genome, setting the stage for a lifetime of personalized health care that focuses on preventing, rather than reacting to, illness.

Instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach, physicians will be able to identify the genetic origins of diseases and use targeted therapies to reduce side effects of treatments while increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.

“Using an individual’s genetic information, we have the potential to tailor cancer therapy more specifically to that patient, with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of treatment while reducing its risks,” says Alan Wayne, MD, director of the Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases.

Next-generation sequencing panels like the one developed at CHLA for RB1 allow physician- researchers to determine the best treatment strategy, predict which patients are at the highest risk for recurrence of the disease, and measure risks to future generations.

Judkins, recognized for his diagnostic expertise and research in pediatric brain tumor markers, is also a leader in the digital transformation of pathology. He is working to develop an integrated diagnostics system to link genomic information and diagnostic imaging directly to patient electronic medical records—an innovative step toward integrating personalized medicine into daily clinical practice.

“With one of the most diverse patient populations in the world and a shared commitment to better outcomes in the future, CHLA is in a position to pioneer research that will help answer the question of why diseases strike particular individuals and use this knowledge in the development of new therapies,” says Brent Polk, MD, director of The Saban Research Institute. “Using a personalized approach, we could set the standard of care for treating children.”