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On being “actionable”: clinical sequencing and the emerging contours of a regime of genomic medicine in oncology

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This article explores commercial, academic, and national initiatives aimed at using sequencing technologies to generate “actionable” genomic results that can be applied to the clinical management of oncology patients. We argue that the term “actionable” is not merely a buzzword, but signals the emergence of a distinctive sociotechnical regime of genomic medicine in oncology. Unlike other regimes of genomic medicine that are organized around assessing and managing inherited risk for developing cancer (e.g. BRCA testing), actionable regimes aim to generate predictive relationships between genetic information and drug therapies, thereby generating new kinds of clinical actions. We explore how these genomic results are made actionable by articulating them with existing clinical routines, clinical trials, regulatory regimes, and health care systems; and in turn, how clinical sequencing programs have begun to reconfigure knowledge and practices in oncology. Actionability regimes confirm the emergence of bio-clinical decision-making in oncology, whereby the articulation of molecular hypotheses and experimental therapeutics become central to patient care.
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Keywords: actionability; genetic testing; genomic medicine; oncology; personalized medicine

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Social Studies of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Canada 2: Department of History, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, Canada

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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