The genetics of a tumor make each patient’s cancer unique. For example, doctors now know that there are many different types of breast cancer with distinct molecular patterns, or profiles. These distinct genetic changes can cause the breast cancer to be more or less likely to respond to certain therapies.

In recent years, researchers have made increasing use of an approach called molecular profiling to better understand the genetic makeup of breast tumors. The information they have gathered has been used to identify and develop targeted therapies that are tailored to specific patients.

Molecular profiling is also enabling physicians to better predict which treatments will and will not work for individual patients. This personalized approach is giving doctors and patients new hope as breast cancer patients have more targeted treatment options.

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What is molecular profiling?

Because no two cancers are alike, cancer treatment plans shouldn’t be either. Molecular profiling characterizes the genetic and molecular structure of a tumor by identifying targets known as tumor biomarkers, which are biological molecules found in the blood, other body fluids or tissues. Based on the information gathered from a patient’s tumor, doctors are able to identify the appropriate therapies that target the biomarkers within an individual patient’s cancer cells.

Understanding the unique biomarkers found in a patient’s tumor can also spare patients from receiving cancer therapies that are less likely to be effective and from experiencing unnecessary side effects from treatment.