Targeted Therapies: From Promise to Reality

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A recent Wall Street Journal article featured the impact that the genomics revolution is having on cancer patient care with a focus on lung cancer. The article shares a strong message of hope, detailing the scientific progress made thus far by noting that we have experienced the “most extraordinary decade of progress ever in the long scientific struggle against lung cancer,” while also pointing to the promise further personalized approaches to cancer care holds.

Lung cancer patient Kellie Carey poignantly shares her story of how she had to demand testing for her tumor to identify its mutation, opening the door for her to molecularly targeted drugs that extended her life.

This message echoes what we heard during the briefing Personalized Medicine: How Medical Progress Happens held by the Personalized Medicine Coalition on Capitol Hill just last month — in particular, the experiences of one of the speakers, lung cancer survivor Stephanie Haney (click here for a video interview with Stephanie). Stephanie and Kellie share a disease and a journey as they have both been “lucky” enough to have been diagnosed with lung cancer in the midst of a revolution in care.

For thirty years the available treatments extended life a few weeks, possibly months. Lung cancer diagnosis was an immediate and imminent death sentence. Now, Stephanie, Kellie, and others with genetically identified tumor mutations have access to targeted treatments that are extending their lives years longer than those lung cancer patients on chemotherapy only and without identified mutations.

These are just two examples of the value of innovative therapies, particularly molecularly targeted drugs. The promise of personalized medicine is very real. Personalized medicine is not an abstract concept for the future of medicine. It is here, it is now, and the true promise has been realized in the lives of Kellie and Stephanie, and the precious days, weeks, months, and years they have taken back from their disease.

And now it is our promise to Kellie, Stephanie, and others to continue to push forward, toward further discovery, and to drive innovation.  There are nearly 1,000 new medicines in the pipeline for cancer alone.  We can all do our part by supporting policies that enable and encourage innovation and allow the science to guide us.

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