I had the opportunity recently to participate in a TEDMED Great Challenges panel discussion entitled, “Shaping the Future of Personalized Medicine.” My fellow panelists and Challenge Teammates included representatives from 23andMe, Foundation Medicine, Illumina, and InformedDNA.
As we discussed the challenges, opportunities and benefits of personalized medicine, three themes emerged.
First, personalized medicine, at its root, is about empowering patients to participate in their own healthcare. Trends in popular culture are meshing with advances in technology to allow consumers access to their health information and the ability to make informed decisions, and our culture is changing in that many now demand to be an involved party in their healthcare.
Amber Trivedi of InformedDNA noted that the power of personalized medicine lies not only in treatment, but prevention. As a genetic counselor, the most common questions asked by her patients are: “What does my genetic information mean to me, and what will it mean to my children?” The best scenario for personalized medicine in action will come when patients are able to see not only the implications of their genetic dispositions, but also are motivated and empowered to use that information in preventative care.
Second, as Michael Pellini, the CEO of Foundation Medicine said, data has to be “accurate and actionable” to have value. However, we cannot discount the potential future benefits of the data discoveries that are underway today. We must find a balance between supporting ongoing data discovery and analysis, while also pushing for data that are actionable now.
Third, traditional healthcare models need to continue to shift to aid in the advancement of personalized medicine. Research cannot continue to solely focus on large population studies; payers need to develop innovative approaches to improve reimbursement policies; and healthcare professionals need training and resources to enable the adoption of personalized medicine in the clinical world.
Finally, when asked what we found to be the most invigorating about personalized medicine, my fellow panelists were quick to share the advances they see on the horizon, including an explosion in targeted therapies aided by new technologies; the shift of cancer to a chronic disease; revolutionizing the treatment of infectious disease through the application of lessons learned from personalized medicine advances in cancer; and deeper data mining enabled by technology currently used in other fields.
Regardless of our individual areas of focus within the world of personalized medicine, this Challenge Team is energized and optimistic about the future of medicine.