Providing precision care through specialized therapies

Usually, children diagnosed with cancer are treated with a standard protocol proven effective for their type of cancer. But for some children, standard treatment therapies may not work. That’s where the COMPASS Clinic comes in.

Acting similarly to a consulting service, the COMPASS Clinic (named as an acronym for comprehensive molecular pathway analysis) at Children’s Wisconsin is a multidisciplinary team of oncologists, geneticists, dermatologists, specialized pharmacists and experts in targeted testing who work with a patient’s dedicated oncologist or primary provider to offer targeted treatments. Using next-generation sequencing, the team can look at the DNA and RNA in rapidly evolving cells to better understand what’s driving a tumor on a molecular level.

“Traditional chemotherapy is sort of agnostic to the type of cell that’s growing and dividing; it is just looking for rapidly growing and dividing cells and targeting the majority of them,” says Matt Kudek, MD, an oncologist at Children’s. “In the COMPASS Clinic, we are trying to understand the internal signal within the cancer cell and employ a treatment that will disrupt that signal and target those specific cells, not necessarily all rapidly growing and dividing cells in somebody’s body.”

Team effort

Once a month, the team meets to review a referred patient’s diagnosis and looks at the DNA and RNA testing results, then evaluates treatment options. Once there’s a consensus on the best potential treatment, the team meets with the patient and their family to discuss the specialized treatment and answer any questions the patient or family has. The goal is to have a wide range of experts available during the entire course of the patient’s treatment to address any concerns, as well as monitor side effects.

“Patients will have access to a geneticist if they have questions about the tumor itself, for example, or if there are questions about how this may have arisen, or if there are risks for other family members,” Dr. Kudek says. “And our dermatologist can help patients understand the skin side effects of targeted medicines, and how to prevent these rashes and other reactions from happening.”

The COMPASS Clinic also sees patients with diseases causing noncancerous growths that affect their ability to function or quality of life. “We can potentially provide, when appropriate, a targeted therapy to help slow or change the growth of those masses, as well,” Dr. Kudek says.

The future of care

When the first line of treatment doesn’t work, it can be scary for patients and their families to know what’s next. The COMPASS Clinic's specialized care gives them back confidence in choosing their next treatment option, because it was chosen specifically for them. And when it comes to the future of cancer care, Dr. Kudek sees targeted therapies becoming the first choice.

“As the field becomes more precision-based, meaning as we understand more and more about the molecular profiles of these tumors, these types of therapies will be used more frequently,” he says. “And they also will eventually be used more frequently as the first line of therapy.”

To refer a case to the COMPASS Clinic, call (414) 266-4096 or email