July 25, 2013

What is the Individualized Medicine Clinic?

By Center for Individualized Medicine

Tammy McAllister


Hello! I’m Tammy McAllister, Operations Manager in the Center for Individualized Medicine at Mayo Clinic. As administrative partner to Dr. Kostas Lazaridis, Enterprise Director of the Individualized Medicine (IM) Clinic, our roles include overseeing the management and expansion of the newly formed IM Clinic.

This is a really exciting time in healthcare! Discoveries made through the Human Genome Project are rapidly progressing and, at the same time, the cost of genomic testing is declining making it practical to use these new, powerful tools for patient care. At Mayo, our new IM Clinic focuses on using these new advances in DNA sequencing to benefit our patients--to help diagnose, treat, predict or prevent disease.

Because of the complex nature and enormous volume of the data generated by DNA sequencing, we want to help shepherd the beginning of this translation process at Mayo Clinic. The key is to show that using these new tests is effective and efficient because they use the patients’ unique DNA to help tailor, or individualize, treatment specific to their own version of their disease--ultimately saving the patients time, expense and the pain of failed other treatments.

I’m neither a scientist nor a clinician, so what has amazed me is seeing this major collaborative effort where multidisciplinary physicians and staff from many departments have come together to form and work in the IM Clinic—bringing all this varied expertise to focus on a single patient at a time, harnessing the power of DNA sequencing to help diagnose and treat the patient.

For the IM Clinic, we identified two areas of patient need where we could make the most immediate impact. First, for advanced cancer patients who are unresponsive to standard treatment, we use Whole Exome Sequencing trying to identify the specific mutation in their tumor(s) causing their cancer. If we do, we then look for a treatment that more effectively targets the specific mutation, rather than using a standard chemotherapy.

The second specialized clinic is for “Diagnostic Odyssey” patients. They come to the IM Clinic with a number of complex issues, often times having failed to be diagnosed with other genetic testing. Whole Exome Sequencing may help us reveal what’s causing these patients’ symptoms.

What’s very exciting is that the IM Clinic is only the beginning to delivering on the promise of genomic-based medicine in the clinical practice—and it’s already helping patients who have been without further options. Through the IM Clinic, it is our honor to continue Mayo’s practice of individualized medicine and guide how genomics will contribute to the future of healthcare.

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