Molecular Oncology Initiative

UCSF Molecular Oncology Initiative

The UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center Molecular Oncology Initiative is a key component of UCSF’s Precision Medicine Initiative, and at its core is focused integrating genomic findings from molecular diagnostic tests with the ever increasing number of therapeutics being developed in translational research and clinical practice, to improve patient outcomes.

Molecular Oncology Initiave

Michael Korn (second from right), MD, leads the UCSF Molecular Tumor Board, which brings together oncologists, researchers, pathologists, genetic counselors and other experts into one room to share their knowledge on real-time cancer cases. Photo by Elisabeth Fall

At the center of this effort is the Molecular Tumor Board, which brings together practicing oncologists, researchers studying cancer biology, pathologists, genetic counselors, and informatics experts into one room to share their knowledge on real-time cancer cases at UCSF Medical Center. To date, more than 500 patient cases have been reviewed by the board.

“Our key mission is to use the combined experience and intelligence of many people across UCSF to improve the algorithms our physicians use to turn genomic findings into clinical recommendations for individual patients,” says the board’s chair, Michael Korn, MD, an oncologist in the UCSF School of Medicine and leader of the Cancer Center’s Molecular Oncology Initiative.

The UCSF Molecular Tumor Board takes advantage of its close collaboration with the UCSF Cancer Clinical Genomics Laboratory (CCGL), led by Boris Bastian, MD, PhD. His laboratory provides the UCSF500 gene panel assay, a cutting-edge sequencing test that, in contrast with commercial cancer gene panel tests, sequences tumor DNA and the patient’s germline (inherited) DNA.  This unique component of the UCSF500 molecular diagnostic test enables identification of genetic changes (mutations) in the DNA of a patient’s cancer, which helps oncologists improve treatment by identifying targeted therapies, or appropriate clinical trials, or in some cases clarify the exact type of cancer a patient has.

“Through the seamless interaction of the molecular tumor board and the CCGL, we are paving the road to delivering a new concept in cancer treatment to our patients,” says Korn. “Already patients at UCSF are benefiting. Since the Board began its work and the UCSF500 became available, we were able to help physicians to make the correct diagnosis for their patient and to deliver appropriate treatments. Several patients achieved dramatic responses as a result of treatments tailored to their diseases’ molecular profile and test results provide a rationale for enrolling patients into clinical trials. In addition, we were able to detect mutations in patient’s germline – these findings are not only benefitting the affected patient but their entire family.”

“We are on a very promising path that will greatly influence how we diagnose and treat cancer here,” Korn says.