Monday, July 27, 2015

Precision Medicine Conference (Highlights)


I just read the “Precision Medicine Conference” highlights posted on the National Brain Tumor Society website: http://blog.braintumor.org/precision-medicine-conference-highlights/  and found myself hopeful, if confused.

I’m hopeful because the highlights sound surprisingly upbeat, positive and, well, optimistic. Why? Because (as best I can tell) we are starting to really leverage our understanding of the human genome as it relates to more effectively treating brain tumors.

Dr. Jennifer Helfer, PhD, explains this much more clearly in her conference recap by stating that  “Precision medicine, also referred to as personalized or individualized medicine, is defined on Wikipedia as ‘a medical model that proposes the customization of healthcare—with medical decisions, practices, and/or products being tailored to the individual patient.’"

Part of this introductory statement is still confusing to me – why is the idea of “medical decisions, practices and/or products being tailored to the individual patient” a radical/newsworthy idea? Haven’t we always been doing that? If not, why not?

As best I can tell, some of this stems from the importance of an individual  victim's genetics in addition to the tumor's classification, e.g. glioblastoma. Being able to research this linkage, according to Dr. Jeffrey Flier, Dean of the Harvard Medical School, is being led - somewhat strangely - by patients  who are “collecting and sharing their own medical information via sites like 23andMe" - https://www.23andme.com/

This information appears to give medical professionals better direction on how to treat patients’ individual and unique brain tumors. The challenge, it appears, is that more doctors need to become more familiar with this information in order to administer and interpret this genetic information.

If you do nothing else, watch this video entitled “Discovering the PD-1 Checkpoint: Winners of the 2014 William B. Coley Award for Tumor Immunology” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B532URzuJOU



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