AHN Cancer Institute Opens Genomics Facility Offering Patients Next-Generation Gene Sequencing to Guide Treatment Decisions

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Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cancer Institute has opened a new Clinical Genomics Laboratory, offering comprehensive, advanced, in-house genomic testing that guides doctors in selecting treatments to give cancer patients their best chance at a good outcome.

William LaFramboise, PhD, Chief Genomics Technology Officer, Allegheny Health Network, and David Bartlett, MD, Chair, AHN Cancer Institute, in AHN's new Clinical Genomics Laboratory

"We believe that offering on-site genomic testing offers a number of advantages to our patients, including a quicker turnaround time and better stewardship of our patients’ samples." - David L. Bartlett, MD, Chair, AHN Cancer Institute

Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cancer Institute has opened a new Clinical Genomics Laboratory on Pittsburgh’s North Side, offering comprehensive, advanced, in-house genomic testing that guides doctors in selecting treatments to give cancer patients their best chance at a good outcome.

The Clinical Genomics Laboratory will provide next-generation gene sequencing based on blood or tumor samples from patients with metastatic (late-stage) cancer, and a variety of common early-stage cancers including breast, colon and lung cancer. Genomic testing can provide information on what treatments will be most effective for each individual patient, as well as provide insight into a patient’s prognosis and response to therapy.

The first test launched is a comprehensive AHN Pan-Cancer Panel, the first of its kind in the region, that interrogates 523 cancer-relevant genes including structural rearrangements and tumor mutation burden. Next in the pipeline is the development of a high sensitivity, blood-based assay optimized to follow the response of individual patients during therapy and post-treatment surveillance.

“The advent of genomic testing and targeted therapies over the past several years has changed the face of cancer treatment,” said David Bartlett, MD, chair, AHN Cancer Institute. “By matching treatments to an individual cancer’s genetic fingerprint, we can help patients more effectively and even extend the lifespans of patients with advanced cancers.

“The practice of precision medicine – evidence-based, individualized medicine that allows us to deliver the right care at the right time to our patients – is shown not only to improve patient outcomes but also reduce health care costs by eliminating unnecessary and ineffective treatments,” Dr. Bartlett said.

“We believe that offering on-site genomic testing, as opposed to sending samples to an out-of-state lab, offers a number of advantages to our patients, including a quicker turnaround time an important advantage for patients who are eager to begin treatment – and better stewardship of our patients’ samples,” Dr. Bartlett said.

The growth of cancer cells is fueled by genetic abnormalities, such as malfunction of genes that prevent cancer, or that spark the growth of cancer cells. Genomic testing reveals the “fingerprint” of these cells, so that doctors can identify exactly which cells aren’t working properly – and select a treatment that addresses that glitch.

The gene’s expression – how it dictates the making of a protein molecule – can also reveal whether a particular treatment will not be effective, or even provide a look at a patient’s prognosis.

The Clinical Genomics Laboratory is part of the larger AHN-Highmark Precision Medicine Initiative that includes a Translational Research Laboratory and Genomics Repository within the Genomics Facility complex and works directly with the Highmark Health Genomics Helix and Data Science teams. These teams are working to develop cutting-edge molecular testing for individualized diagnosis and testing of each patient, for monitoring tumor response after treatment and for identifying new diagnostic biomarkers and potential new targets for pharmacological, immunological, radiological and genomic therapies.

About Allegheny Health Network – and the AHN Cancer Institute

Allegheny Health Network, a Highmark Health Company, is a western Pennsylvania-based integrated healthcare system that serves patients from across a five-state region that includes western Pennsylvania and the adjacent regions of Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and New York. The Network’s Cancer Institute employs more than 200 physicians and 500 oncology professionals who provide a complete spectrum of oncology care at 24 affiliated oncology clinics, including access to state-of-the-art technologies and new therapies being explored in hundreds of clinical cancer trials. The Cancer Institute has the only cancer program in the Pittsburgh region accredited as an Integrated Network Cancer Program by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, and its radiation oncology program is the largest in the country accredited by the American Society for Radiation Oncology. AHN Cancer Institute is a Quality Oncology Practice Initiative certified practice, and is accredited by the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy, National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer. AHN also has a formal affiliation with the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, one of the nation’s 41 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute, for research, medical education and clinical services.

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