Personalized Medicine: Celebrating Progress and Looking Ahead

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The release of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Cancer Progress Report last week, reminded me of the progress that has been made in cancer care since the passage of the National Cancer Act in 1971.  When President Nixon signed the law committing significant U.S. funds to cancer research, little was known about the disease and it was thought that a one-size-fits-all approach might eradicate cancer–what we know today is more than 200 different diseases; and that number will likely grow.  The personalized approach necessary to combat cancer was then not yet imagined, let alone understood.

But the progress in personalized cancer care, and in personalized medicine more broadly, has been recent.

For my September column in Personalized Medicine, I interviewed Harvard Medical School Professor of Genetics and Medicine Raju Kucherlapati, Ph.D., to discuss how personalized medicine has evolved since he launched Harvard’s annual personalized medicine meeting in 2005.  He explained that at first, business leaders and policymakers were skeptical that personalized medicine would have any impact in the near term, but that the many examples of personalized medicine products and new tools to speed innovation have changed minds and forever improved medicine.

No one better exemplifies progress in this field than President and Co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology, Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D., who will be presented with PMC’s Award for Leadership in Personalized Medicine at this year’s Harvard conference. Dr. Hood envisioned the integration of scientific understanding into clinical practice by developing the first DNA and protein sequencer and synthesizer–laying the foundation for the development of personalized medicine.

I hope you will join me at this year’s Harvard conference, November 9-10, 2011, in Boston and at PMC’s cocktail reception to kick off the conference on November 8, 2011.  We will both celebrate the progress personalized medicine has made, thanks to the leadership of visionaries like Raju Kucherlapati and Leroy Hood; and discuss how we continue to move the paradigm of personalized medicine forward through scientific innovation, collaborative business partnerships, and supportive public policies.

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