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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Precision Medicine-Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer Development and Actionable Genes. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Every tumor is unique. Mutations occur in the genome of the cell in its journey to become a cancer cell. The mutations that altered one person’s cancer cell are not identical to the mutations that occurred in another patient’s cancer cells. This uniqueness is important and is termed a biological signature.
A biomarker is an indicator of a biological condition such as cancer. These biomarkers can be genes or proteins that are altered in a tumor cell. By understanding the different mutations or biomarkers in a patient’s tumor we are able to predict their tumor’s response to therapy. Although biomarkers are not always the same between patients, there are certain mutations that are more likely lead to cancer in specific tissues. These mutations are often targeted by specific drug therapy. Guidelines help clinicians understand which biomarkers are important for treatment decisions and therefore need to be tested for in each cancer type.