The treatment of illness has traditionally been based on the law of averages – what works best for the largest number of patients. As a result, billions of dollars are spent every year on treatments that could be ineffective or even harmful for some patients. What if doctors could tell with a simple test which course of treatment would be best for a particular patient?
As recently as a decade ago, this would have seemed like science fiction. But thanks to recent advances in molecular diagnostics, "personalized medicine" – which allows physicians to tailor treatment to a patient based upon defined characteristics – is a reality today, according to a panel of experts who will be discussing opportunities and obstacles of personalized medicine at an exclusive media event hosted by QIAGEN.
QIAGEN, a worldwide leader in molecular diagnostic technologies, will host a panel discussion with experts in the field of personalized medicine, including Edward Abrahams, Ph.D., executive director of the Personalized Medicine Coalition (PMC); Nancy Roach, co-founder and Board Chair of C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition; and Peer Schatz, CEO of QIAGEN, whose tests and tools are being used by physicians, leading researchers and many of the largest pharmaceutical companies to determine patients' potential responses to drug treatments based on specific genetic markers. The event, which will be open exclusively to media, will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York on February 11, 2010.
"We are honored to have such a distinguished panel to address many of the facets of personalized medicine, including public policy, science, and patient care. With the nation focused on healthcare reform, the timing of this event couldn't be better," said Schatz. "For instance, some of the most popular treatments for cardiovascular and neurological diseases, and most prominently cancer, are effective in only about 60 percent of patients. That leaves a significant portion of the population searching for a treatment that works for them, often at considerable expense. Personalized medicine can dramatically improve the success rate, while significantly reducing unnecessary and ineffective treatments."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already identified 32 different genomic biomarkers in current product labeling of various drugs, which can be used to leverage a patient's genetic information in order to plan a personalized course of treatment. There are currently diagnostic tests to help improve treatment for certain types of cancer, improve matches for organ transplants, and avoid serious side effects or help to find the right dosage of drugs such as Warfarin. These advances are just the tip of the iceberg. The market for personalized medicine is growing by 24 percent annually and has already reached $13 billion (USD), according to a 2009 industry report by Bain & Company.
"In medicine, one size does not fit all. Numerous advances in molecular diagnostics have made it possible to better target drugs to selected patients based on defined biomarkers and thereby also avoiding unnecessary adverse affects," PMC's Abrahams said. "But it is important that patients understand their treatment options and know what questions to ask. This panel discussion will be another way to educate the public about the emerging promise of personalized medicine."
As an example of what is currently being done, two of QIAGEN's research tests can detect the presence of biomarkers K-RAS and B-RAF in certain cancer patients. Identifying any mutations of the K-RAS gene, which is also indicative for other cancers, enables doctors to assess whether patients suffering from metastatic colorectal cancer may benefit from treatment with the most common, and potentially cost-prohibitive anti-EGFR drugs. Another QIAGEN assay can detect a specific gene mutation that is associated with AIDS patients who may be susceptible to adverse reactions to the commonly-prescribed drug Abacavir. Knowing patients have this mutation allows their doctors to choose a different course of treatment.
"Every day we are seeing more evidence of improved drug efficacy through 'companion diagnostics' – or testing a patient's genetic make-up before selecting a course of treatment," said Nancy Roach, a cancer survivor, patient advocate, and co-founder and Board Chair for C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition. "For illnesses such as cancer, where time is a luxury we don't have, the ability to tailor treatment to a specific person's genome, rather than relying on time consuming trial-and-error, can mean the difference between life and death."
The personalized medicine panel discussion is open to media only. Attendance will be limited. For media interested in attending or for more information about the event, please contact Melissa Arnoff at [email protected] or 202-973-1336.