Genomic testing changed the course of Karen Peterson’s cancer treatment plan

Each Person’s Cancer Should Have A Personalized Plan

Learning the genomic information in the DNA of each person’s cancer–to understand what might be causing their disease to grow–can help guide a physician to make a treatment plan that is personal to each individual with advanced cancer. A genomic test can:

Match patients to targeted therapy or immunotherapy options

Match patients to targeted therapy or immunotherapy options.i,ii

Reduce the number of unnecessary treatments

Identify treatments that might not work.

Connect patients to clinical trial options

Present clinical trial options.

Thanks to genomic testing, it’s now possible to analyze the DNA makeup of each person’s cancer to identify the unique alterations that may be causing the cancer to grow.

Genomic testing can help guide a patient and their doctor to identify a treatment plan specific to their unique cancer, known as “personalized medicine” or “precision medicine.”

Over the last decade, the understanding of cancer has evolved. With the insights and advancements from genomic testing, cancer is no longer defined solely by the place that the cancer starts (e.g., breast, lung), but also by the genomic changes that contribute to the growth of each patient's cancer.

Targeted therapies and immunotherapies, as well as clinical trials, may be potential treatment options to consider with your doctor, but in many cases, having individual genomic information is necessary to match patients to these treatment approaches.

Published research shows that patients with advanced cancer have the potential to experience better outcomes when genomic testing is used to match them to a therapeutic approach that they may be more likely to respond to based on their individual genomic profile.iii,iv,v,vi

Genomic information can also help doctors avoid prescribing treatments their patient is unlikely to respond to.

There are multiple types of genomic tests. It is important to choose a comprehensive genomic test that includes all four types of alterations and select fusions and that spans several hundred different types of genes.

Approximately 2 out of 3 advanced cancer patients are NOT getting the broad genomic information about their own cancer that could inform their cancer care.vii
If we went down the traditional treatment path I might not be here. I’m beyond grateful for my test results that allowed me to access a clinical trial.

Karen’s Advice for Those Facing Advanced Cancer

Those with advanced cancer often ask me for advice and these are the tips I share:

  1. GET INFORMED

    Learning more about your type of cancer, getting informed and working with your doctor to develop a care plan will empower you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

  2. SEEK SUPPORT

    At times it may feel like it, but you’re not alone. There are so many resources out there. It’s OK to ask for help and trust me when I say that support is essential.

  3. Ask your doctor if a comprehensive genomic test could help inform your treatment plan.

    Without a genomic test, it may be more difficult – if not, in some cases, impossible – to know which of the new advances in cancer medicine may be right for you. Ask your doctor if a comprehensive genomic test could better inform your treatment plan.

Learn More About How Testing Your Cancer Can Uncover Treatment Options

Learn more about precision medicine and access a library of resources across multiple types of cancer.

For those with Metastatic Breast Cancer, the MBC Connect 2.0 App is an interactive, web- and mobile-friendly patient experience registry that empowers patients in the U.S. to collaborate with researchers to advance MBC research while also matching patients with potential clinical trials.

This discussion guide can help you ask your doctor for this important test.

My Story of Survival

There are few things more frightening than an advanced cancer diagnosis. As a three-time cancer survivor who was given a slim chance of treatment success, I know this better than most.

But I’m here today because I got informed, spoke up and advocated for genomic testing.

Already a childhood cancer survivor, in 2015, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. At that time, my doctors put me on an aggressive chemotherapy regimen, and I had a voluntary double mastectomy. Life started to get back to normal, but I was always concerned that it could return.

Two years later, it returned with a vengeance. I had tumors in my lungs, spine, ribs, and pelvis. I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer.

A Personalized Plan for a Fighting Chance

There I was: a 52-year old single mom. I had just earned a degree in coding. I wanted to live. I needed to live.

My oncologist wanted to try a traditional treatment approach, but that didn’t feel right for me. I said, “This is Karen sitting in front of you. I need you to help me to build a plan that’s specific for me and not anyone else.” I wanted a personalized plan that looked at targeted treatment options based on my unique cancer.

Through countless hours of research, I learned that genomic profiling, a type of biomarker testing, is used to show doctors DNA changes within tumors. I asked for a genomic test, but my oncologist didn’t think it was necessary. I went for a second opinion and the oncologist agreed I should get a genomic test—and we did.

There were no FDA-approved treatments for my type of cancer at the time, but information provided by the genomic test helped me get into a clinical trial evaluating two immunotherapies—treatments that work by using my body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.

I had an incredible response. In just 8 weeks, 72% of my tumors had disappeared.

The Power of Advocating for Yourself

Now, two years later, I just finished the clinical trial and am so thrilled to say I no longer have tumors in my ribs, lungs, and spine.

My experience taught me that it’s important – essential – to learn all you can about your disease so you can best partner with your healthcare team on a treatment plan that’s right for you. I might not be here if I hadn’t sought information and eventually asked my doctor for a comprehensive genomic test. Testing my cancer uncovered additional treatment options and ultimately helped guide a personalized plan that was based on my individual genomic profile.

If you are diagnosed with advanced cancer, talk to your doctor about how genomic testing could be used to inform your treatment plan.


Please consult with your doctor for more information about genomic testing. Karen’s experience with genomic testing is unique to her. Many advanced cancer patients who receive genomic testing may not be matched to a therapy or clinical trial option based on their genomic profile and treatment outcomes will vary based on your cancer type and unique genomic profile. However, getting a comprehensive genomic test may help your doctor make an informed treatment decision.