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An Understanding

At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, biopsies from patients now head to a new lab where they are examined to determine whether they house any of 341 genetic mutations, Bloomberg reports. Knowing whether the tumor harbors any of these changes can help guide the patient's treatment, it adds.

"It's the whole idea of precision medicine — we've been talking about this for 15 or 20 years," Jon Cohen, chief medical officer at Quest, tells Bloomberg. "All of what everybody talked about is finally coming to fruition."

Sloan Kettering, Bloomberg notes, also plans to sequence 10,000 patient tumor samples each year, and will base its studies of those tumors on the mutations that they have, not the organ from which the tumor originates.

Companies, too, are exploring this area. As Bloomberg reports, Pfizer and AstraZeneca are running a joint study of 200 lung cancer patients whose tumors they are sequencing and treating with a number of different drugs.

"The ability of the genetics to predict how it might play out if you have the right molecule is amazing," Sloan Kettering's Charles Sawyers tells Bloomberg. "We finally understand what we're doing."