"Patients need cutting-edge research," Mayo Clinic vice president and Mayo Clinic Arizona CEO Wyatt Decker, M.D., said after speaking to a full auditorium at the Milken Institute Global Conference this week. Dr. Decker spoke as part of a panel of experts on the topic of "Breakthrough Medicine: Will Finding a Cure Be Just the Start of Saving Lives?"
With precision medicine now part of the national mandate set forth by President Barack Obama, Dr. Decker and the group discussed finding a "cure" for cancer and the role precision medicine will have on health care in the 21st century. They also considered ways that next-generation science and innovative policies can be leveraged to make the best treatments available to patients.
"Mayo Clinic created the Center for Individualized Medicine to keep physicians informed on precision medicine," Dr. Decker said afterwards. "Mayo Clinic is committed to sharing that knowledge through collaboration. In fact, the Clinic was founded on the principles of collaboration, which is crucial between doctors, and crucial to using research to find solutions for patients. Patients need cutting edge research, and we are doing that."
Dr. Decker responded to media questions after the session. Here are a few excerpts.
What does collaboration mean to patients?
Dr. Decker: To patients, it's solutions and hope. Whether it's a patient with end stage multiple myeloma who responds to a modified measles virus or it's a patient who a team of experts comes around to give proton beam therapy, immunotherapies, etc. Not only having a strong individual doctor, but a team of experts that focus around you and your unique situation.
When does genomics or genetics come into play?
Dr. Decker: The human genome was finished in 2003, but it's only been the past couple of years that we've seen a tipping point reached where we see enough breakthroughs in immunotherapy and genomic sequencing becoming available and faster and less expensive. Those two factors are really making this an exciting time in cancer therapy.
What about health and wellness and the genome?
Dr. Decker: I think it's a big factor. We all like to say diet and exercise are important. They still are important, but what is my risk for having a heart attack in the next 10 years? Analyzing one's genome can inform that, not totally, but it's an important consideration in what my risk is for that and other diseases, so in our journey to expand our healthy living, our health span as opposed to our lifespan, individualized medicine is going to be an important component to it.
On the panel
Dr. Decker: I thought it was an excellent panel because you had the perspective of a very forward thinking leader of the insurance industry who recognizes it's about bringing meaningful solutions to patients, but we have to bring it in a way that everybody succeeds. There aren't losers, and that requires collaboration and then we had some colleagues from the R&D component -- both big pharma and small startups and the not-for-profit foundation. I thought we had a valuable group in terms of different perspectives who shared a commitment to how do we focus on excellence and solutions for patients.
"There is no more exciting time in the history of medicine than today," Dr. Decker added.
The Milken Institute Global Conference convenes some of the world's most extraordinary people to explore solutions to today's most pressing challenges in financial markets, industry sectors, health, government and education.