Personalized Medicine and the Future of Pathology at Penn

5 years ago
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The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, in conjunction with the Abramson Cancer Center, is at the leading edge of personalized medicine with its Center for Personalized Diagnostics and the Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility. To learn more about the Center for Personalized Diagnostics, visit

Penn Medicine's Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine is at the forefront of shaping the future of personalized medicine and, in conjunction with the Abramson Cancer Center, is developing a Center for Personalized Diagnostics, integrating molecular pathology, pathology informatics, and genomic pathology for diagnosis and research. The Department also maintains the Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility as an ACC Shared Resource.

A key component in personalized medicine is diagnostics: the ability to identify molecular signatures present, for example, in the DNA of tumor cells. Collection of a large number of molecular features from individuals is now possible thanks to the development of massively parallel "next-generation" DNA sequencing technologies. These molecular signatures can be used to discover novel targets for specific therapies and to identify patients who would most benefit from currently available treatments. By collecting signatures prospectively and following patients over time, researchers will be able to identify new markers to predict the course of an individual patient's disease and new targets for therapy. Thus, personalized diagnostics is a crucial component of current treatment and also underpins the discovery of future targeted therapies.

Moreover, as the locus for infusional therapeutics, the Department embraces next-generation therapeutics that involve the infusion of cells, proteins, and genes—including recent milestones in cancer immunotherapy. The Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility (CVPF) uses novel bio-therapeutics to treat cancer and other malignancies such as HIV, and autoimmune diseases such as graft versus host disease and diabetes. These treatments harness and engineer the patient's own cells as part of medical care to provide a targeted personalized therapy with minimal autoimmune-mediated toxicity because the patient is not receiving anything considered foreign.

The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Ruth and Raymond Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania is a fully integrated academic Pathology Department, with divisions of Anatomic Pathology, Laboratory Medicine, Transfusion Medicine, Neuropathology, as well as in Experimental Pathology and Immunobiology, and it is one of two hospital-based departments at Penn Medicine with a primary focus on clinical diagnostics. The Department is consistently ranked in the top three in the nation in NIH funding.