Alternative to Personalized Medicine Offers Promise of Increased Remissions, Reduced Failure of Chemotherapy, and Decreased Healthcare Expense

In a provocative commentary titled “Individualized Medicine Vs Personalized Medicine” in DDNews (May 2016), Joe Olechno, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, Labcyte Inc., begins as follows: “There are people who will die this week even though there are drugs that could help them. At the same time, hundreds of patients will undergo cancer chemotherapy that, while debilitating and expensive, will not cure them of their disease. While cancer is a formidable foe, there is a way to improve patient care and prognosis immediately.” Dr. Olechno begins by differentiating between the so-called “personalized” or “precision” medicine (PM) approach increasingly popular in the United States, versus the different, but similarly named “individualized” medicine approach used in some countries in Europe, particularly at the Institute for Molecular Medicine, Finland (FIMM). Dr. Olechno argues that the PM is neither personalized nor precise. He says, “PM strives to identify the appropriate biomarker (usually a DNA mutation but proteins, peptides, and metabolites can stand as biomarkers as well) to categorize the patient as a member of a specific group of patients. The patient is treated with a drug that has shown positive results on previous members of the group. In other words, personalized medicine is actually population-based medicine.” At the FIMM, a different approach is taken. Dr. Olechno notes that "Researchers at the FIMM have developed an empirical, individualized test that can screen hundreds to thousands of drugs against a patient’s particular cancer quickly and at low cost. The test can eliminate chemotherapy that is highly likely to fail and it informs the clinician of the best options.
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