Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Chance to Expand Your Vocabulary

“Personalized medicine” is a phrase we are going to hear a lot more about in the future.

Recently I have attended meetings or picked up articles about “personalized medicine.” It seems like many people are beginning to use the term in different contexts. Some use the term to refer to high-end concierge medical practices in which a patient pays a primary care physician an annual “membership” fee. But, the term conveys far more power and has implications for many of us.

Last year I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Bill Nelson, Professor and Director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. He explained that “within the next few years, all cancer patients at the Kimmel Cancer Center will have their tumors analyzed to reveal a unique “fingerprint.” The fingerprint represents the combination of genetic alterations specific to each person’s cancer. Just as every person is genetically unique, so is every cancer. Targeting these alterations, say scientists, will improve treatment outcomes, thwart cancers before they develop, and slash the costs of new drug discovery.”

The new edition of the Hopkins publication, Promise and Progress, describes how The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center is translating laboratory discoveries into remarkable new therapies that target the unique cellular characteristics of each patient’s cancer. [ http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/publications/promise_progress/the_time_is_now_2010_2011_/personalized_medicine_is_here_the_time_is_now].

Personalized medicine may sound like a simple concept, but the science behind it may change the course of cancer treatment. Like me, you may want to add the phrase to your lexicon.

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