From The Catalyst (blog) – A Conversation with Edward Abrahams Ph.D., President, Personalized Medicine Coalition

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This entry is reposted with permission from PhRMA’s blog, The Catalyst.

ASCO’s Annual Meeting this week highlighted some of the exciting advances that are emerging in the fight against cancer. PhRMA has joined with many other organizations in supporting a conference next week, “Turning the Tide Against Cancer Through Sustained Medical Innovation,” which is focused on the critical issue of how we sustain this progress in an era of increasing cost-cutting pressure. Conference participants will examine how we measure the value of new treatments and how we can promote high quality, patient-centered care.

The conference is being convened by the American Association of Cancer Research, the Personalized Medicine Coalition, and Feinstein Kean Healthcare. We sat down with each of the conference co-hosts about the event and progress in cancer care.

A Conversation with Edward Abrahams Ph.D., President, Personalized Medicine Coalition

Q:  What are the implications of personalized medicine’s growing role in research and patient care in oncology?

Ed Abrahams:  Technological improvements in genetic sequencing and molecular profiling of tumors have given researchers and clinicians a new ability to understand the molecular and genetic characteristics of cancer patients and their tumors.  By more accurately classifying disease, patients can benefit from targeted treatments that are more likely to work.

Simply put, personalized medicine means better patient care. Personalized treatment regimens allow clinicians to select treatments that are more likely to attack specific tumor types.  But personalized medicine also delivers better value to patients and the health system because it enables clinicians to spare patients the expense and side-effects of treatments that are not likely to provide tangible benefits and thereby to help address the challenge of rising health care costs.

We believe that the future of cancer therapeutics lies in molecular biology and genomics, supported by electronic health data systems and advanced health information technologies that support a rapid learning health care system.  Increased collaboration between academia, the biopharmaceutical industry, philanthropic organizations, and patient advocacy groups will maximize the development of new personalized medicine technologies and treatments.

Q:  What are some of the barriers to personalized medicine that need to be addressed to facilitate the adoption of personalized medicine?

Ed Abrahams:  Clearer regulatory and reimbursement pathways are needed to ensure that developers of new personalized medicine products – therapeutics, diagnostics, and others laboratory services – have a reasonable pathway to get their products approved by regulatory agencies and to ensure that products are reimbursed at rates reflective of the innovative value of the product and the investment necessary to develop it.

We must also aligning comparative effectiveness research (CER) with the science of personalized medicine and the fact that we are not always aware of all of the uses for a new therapy at the time of its approval. If we rush to judgment about value too early, we will cut short the process of continuous learning through which value emerges. If we take a traditional “one size fits all” approach to CER that judges “average” value at a point in time, we will stifle innovation.

Finally, our education system must evolve to ensure that our health care workforce is trained in genetics, genomics, and the technologies needed to integrate personalized medicine into cancer treatment decision-making.

Q:  What is your goal for the conference?

Ed Abrahams: This conference will provide stakeholders a forum to discuss major developments in oncology research and development and link the science of personalized medicine with public policy.

We intend the high-level discussion at the conference to illuminate policy solutions that will spur the development of new personalized medicine approaches to cancer.  By brining patients, payers, industry, and academe, we hope to identify ways to continue to deliver high value care in a cost constrained environment and to sustain innovation to improve cancer patient outcomes.

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