Recap on Personalized Medicine

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

The presentation was well worth the donation of $18 or chai. Dr. Ido Amit, Department of Immunology, Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and Dr. Sarit Assouline, Department of Oncology and Hematology, Jewish General Hospital (JGH) discussed Personalized Medicine. Dr. Amit stated that within 5-10 years this area will grow and new treatments will focus on care, medications and what to avoid.
The words used were Genomics and Genome which has to do with each persons genetics and genes. “Imagine a book with all the information of who you are” a direct quote from Dr. Ido Amit. He also described the analogy of a radio and taking a hammer to it to describe diseases and chronic illnesses today and current treatments.
It appears that physicians do not always know what will work for a specific patient. Imagine someone with cancer (the radio) and taking a hammer (the treatment) to smash it to pieces hoping that will work for a patient. Now…..imagine a radio where a specific part or piece can be targeted for treatment.
Dr. Sarit Assouline discussed cancer treatment at the JGH where she is employed. Personalized Medicine is used for a group of individuals who have been tested and samples taken to define their gene mutation. She used the example of one with Leukemia. A Bio-marker is identified, (the mutated gene) and a specific treatment (medication) is given to these individuals.
Gleevec is an example of a medication prescribed for life for newly diagnosed adult and/or pediatric patient with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph+ CML) in the chronic phase. Currently, this drug costs $3500 a month. Imagine spending that amount of money for the rest of your life and your insurance does not cover the whole cost of the medication……..
Other issues raised were ethics and regulatory bodies in government or insurance. Who decides who pays and who approves a treatment? Like neuroplasticity which was not accepted by the medical field for many years, the feeling was Personalized Medicine will also meet resistance.
*October 29, 2012

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