Mission Health Takes National Leadership Role in Personalized Medicine

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 22, 2017) – Mission Health is at the forefront of the personalized medicine movement, a revolutionary area of medicine that holds extraordinary promise for improving the way providers diagnose and treat chronic disease.

Mission Health’s Personalized Medicine program focuses on response to drugs in a way that will increase the likelihood that a drug will work effectively while decreasing the likelihood that it will result in a bad side effect for our patients. Personalized medicine testing utilizes the genetic make-up of the individual, or in cancer, the genetic makeup of the patient’s tumor to predict which drug might be the best match for an individual patient. Mission Health is one of the few community health systems in the nation to offer this vital program for both cancer patients and non-cancer patients.

Important initiatives that are fueling the study and practice of personalized medicine at Mission Health are the 2013 recruitment of nationally known personalized medicine expert Lynn Dressler, PhD to develop and direct the Mission Personalized Medicine Program, the opening of Mission’s Personalized Medicine Clinic in the Fullerton Genetics Center and a grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBC) to help bring this testing to primary care providers in western North Carolina (the grant helps cover the cost of testing). The NCBC is a private nonprofit organization devoted to building long-term societal and economic benefits to North Carolina by supporting biotechnology research, business, and education across the state.

The NCBC funded pilot study focuses on how testing for drug response can be used effectively in a primary care setting. The pilot study evaluates the barriers that might prevent primary care practices from adopting this testing and how those barriers could be addressed, including opportunities for economic development and job growth.  The Mission Personalized Medicine team provides education and training for providers to use and interpret test results.

Dr. Dressler’s interest in pursuing solutions to obstacles that currently exist for primary care practices to adopt personalized medicine testing for drug response is the opportunity to enhance care and reduce costs with minimal disruption to the primary care practice current work flow. “Patients can only benefit if their providers adopt testing,” said Dressler. This study will provide free testing and free education and training to providers, so at least those main barriers are “off the table.” By giving clinicians and patients an opportunity to “try out” this testing within a safe environment, it may identify and address other barriers that we have not yet realized.

One year into the NCBC funded study, Dressler and the PM team has successfully recruited 10 clinicians from four primary care practices and tested 41 patients. Recommendations for changes in medication management were suggested in more than one third of patients. The study has already identified additional barriers to be addressed to make this testing more efficient and available to more patients and providers. Future plans for the study include recruitment of several additional practices, with a goal of recruiting approximately 80 total patients from the region.  Mission Health plans to conduct other pilot studies to enhance drug management in areas such as behavioral health and supportive care for cancer patients.

Ronald A. Paulus, M.D., President and CEO of Mission Health, who will be speaking at the 13th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference at Harvard Medical School in November declares that personalized medicine offers extraordinary medical possibilities. “If we can harness the power of this transformational biomedical technology successfully – and we are already beginning to – we can improve outcomes for our patients and increase the effectiveness of our dedicated clinicians’ skillful and compassionate care. At the same time, this technology empowers our patients to be informed, shared decision-makers with their physicians.  It is truly an exciting time,” he said.


Mission Health, based in Asheville, North Carolina, is the state’s sixth-largest health system. For the fifth time in the past six years, Mission Health has been named one of the nation’s Top 15 Health Systems by Truven Health Analytics, an IBM Company and part of IBM Watson Health in 2017. We are the only health system in North Carolina to achieve this recognition. Mission Health operates six hospitals, numerous outpatient and surgery centers, post-acute care provider CarePartners, long-term acute care provider Asheville Specialty Hospital, and the region’s only dedicated Level II trauma center. With approximately 12,000 team members and 2,000 volunteers, Mission Health is dedicated to improving the health and wellness of the people of western North Carolina. For more information, please visit mission-health.org or @MissionHealthNC.

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