Thursday, January 20, 2011

More on the Merging of Medical Methods

Part 2: We need CER to advance PM

In the last post, I described personalized medicine (PM) and comparative effectiveness research (CER), two methods that could change medicine. A recent conference held at NIH explored the necessity of using CER and PM in concert to best treat each patient: Comparative Effectiveness and Personalized Medicine: an Essential Interface. This conference brought together many of the stakeholders in medical research to discuss the needs and implications of PM and CER.

A speaker at the conference, Dr. Euan Ashley sees the future of PM as when every patient has their genetic sequence in their medical records. The genetic sequence will help with diagnosing an illness and choosing the right treatment, even choosing the right dose of that treatment. Although we aren’t there yet, in the future, everyone may get their genome sequenced--sequencing is becoming cheaper and faster, making that possible.

Dr. Stephen Quake, another speaker and a researcher, has had his genome sequenced. He said that knowing you carry the sequence of DNA that predisposes you to a disease is much more effective at changing your behavior than information based on family history or environmental factors. In addition, he now knows what dose of which medication would work best for him, based on his genetic sequence.

Genetics is a large part of PM. Scientists are working hard to understand the genetic changes, or mutations, that cause diseases. Also, drugs are being developed that target specific mutations, which means each patient can be prescribed a therapy that will work best for their particular disease.

But, we need CER to understand the genetic information and the drugs that target those mutations. Thus, we need CER to advance PM.

Come back tomorrow for the last installment in this series.

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