One of the markets that’s got the industry most excited lately is personalized medicine – the use of detailed diagnostics to determine individualized medical treatments. Little wonder that the approach is garnering attention, as the number of stakeholders seeing new ways to benefit seems to grow daily. Think platform tool providers, whose imaging and genetic tests are going to be relied on in completely new ways. Think pharma companies, who’ll be able to increase their shot at getting drugs through clinical trials by weeding out non-responders in advance. And of course, think hospitals and physicians, who’ll be able to pinpoint treatments that will get patients better sooner and decrease toxicity and other negative side effects.
Cardiovascular disease is good example of personalized medicine in full swing. In the past, a cardiovascular patient’s newly-prescribed blood thinner often became a mini science experiment. Too high a dosage could mean hemorrhage; too low a dosage, and clots could land patients them back in the OR. Today, a quick (genetic) blood test determines optimal dose and is radically reducing hospitalization rates. But where more and more industry people are really expecting to find pay dirt is with the application of this kind of customization to an intractable problem like breast cancer.
We’re thankfully already past the time when the disease was identified and treated almost exclusively according to its tissue of origin – a crude categorization, as breast cancers are not all the same – but we’re far from where personalized medicine will be taking us soon. Today, genetic testing allows several cancers to be typed and paired with individualized therapy, and the area is expanding fast. Genomic Health, Agendia and Myriad have diagnostic tests that can help pair patients with the most effective treatment regime, in effect personalizing their treatments. Multi-gene tests, such as Agendia’s MammaPrint™, include more genetic information, and are advancing the field. And that’s just the beginning. A guy to watch in personalized medicine is Raju Kucherlapati, Ph.D., Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. He is definitely a key thought leader driving this field forward, and he’s a truly lovely person, to boot. He also organizes a great, not-to-be-missed conference through Harvard and Partners every November. We expect to be placing more and more leaders and researchers in personalized-medicine-related fields this year. Kind of nice when a big new idea promises a healthy future for us all medically — and financially, too!