Monday, June 9, 2008

Realizing the Promise of Personalized Medicine

Last week, media outlets reported on a study about the use of genetic research to personalize cancer treatment, presented at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

The Wall Street Journal reported on data that showed Imclone's Erbitux benefits newly diagnosed colorectal cancer patients and confirmed that patients with a certain gene mutation don't respond to the drug. The gene is called K-ras, a regulator of cell growth that researchers say plays a crucial role in several cancers. The results might reduce the market for the drug but could help doctors identify those patients likely to benefit the most.
Genetic research is allowing doctors to customize the drug treatments most likely to work for each patient. Before, treatment has included some guess work. The end result is that a patient can undergo an inefficient and costly game of hit-or-miss.

Personalized medicine is beginning to garner buy-in from large pharmaceutical and biotech companies, which are just now coming to terms with the reality that the blockbuster way is not the only way. This smaller market approach promises better patient outcomes. As well, biomarkers such as K-ras paves the way for targeted, more effective research efforts and could potentially lower clinical trial costs and accelerate the advancement of medical solutions.

FasterCures is a strong proponent of personalized medicine efforts and strongly believes that 21st century healthcare relies greatly on advances in genetic research, and other innovative medical solutions that fuel the search for new treatments and cures. The passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), albeit the 13-year delay, allows patients to confidently participate in studies that search for linkages between genes and disease, to enroll in clinical trials for new targeted drugs, or to provide samples for DNA analysis to optimize their own disease prevention and treatment.

These new discoveries in cancer hold enormous value to the rest of our disease research system. We urge pharmaceutical and biotech companies to continue to invest in this type of R&D. While we acknowledge the business imperative of searching for the next blockbuster drug, we believe the ROI for successfully pursuing customized treatments is important. Lives saved and improved quality of care for each individual should always be the measures for medical progress.

Angelo Bouselli, Communications Manager, FasterCures

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