Q: What is the difference between genetic testing vs. genomic testing?
The terms “genetics” and “genomics” are often used interchangeably but, in fact, they are different. Everything within us is started with our genes – they are the fundamental building blocks of life.
Genetic testing identifies abnormalities or predispositions we have been born with, and how these might affect our health.
Genomic testing refers to the examination of unique abnormalities or mutations that occur in the cancer. Some or all of these mutations may be driving the cancer to grow. In theory, targeting these would be a way to control the cancer. With genomic testing, we can reveal the genomic makeup of abnormalities within the cancer tissue. In other words, for some patients, more targeted precision may now be possible by identifying the genetic profile of a tumor and designing treatment options specifically for that person’s cancer.
Currently, there are no specific clinical guidelines as to who is eligible or appropriate for genomic testing. It depends on the tumor type and where the patient is in his or her journey with cancer. While genomic testing may in the future be standard to assess all tumors, today it still remains investigational and unproven for most. Ultimately, it is a decision made between the patient and the clinician who has a proper understanding of his/her clinical history and the tumor biology.