December 2, 2016

What is precision medicine? New tools for better diagnosis, treatment and prevention

By Sharon Rosen

biomarker_discovery-biorepositoryYou’ve undoubtedly heard the term, “the promise of precision medicine.”  But, what does that mean and how will it impact your own health?

Aleksandar Sekulic, M.D., Ph.D., assistant director, Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, recently spoke to a group of patients on Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, Minn. to answer these questions.

New treatments and possible cures

First, Dr. Sekulic highlighted milestones of genomics discovery:

  • DNA structure discovered in 1953
  • It took 13 years for The Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003, to map the first human genome
  • Today, your DNA can be sequenced in less than a day, thanks to rapid advances in genomic technology
  • Cost to map the first genome: More than $3 billion
  • Cost to map your DNA today: Approximately $1,000
Dr. Aleksandar Sekulic

Dr. Aleksandar Sekulic

“Genomics has allowed us to make significant improvements in treatments for many diseases. For example, we now know that melanoma is not just one disease but many different diseases, each defined by a different genetic set of mutations,” says Dr. Sekulic. “By understanding these different subgroups, we can more accurately diagnose the disease and develop better targeted treatments. In melanoma, we have made tremendous advances and for some subgroups of the condition, we can start to use the ‘c’ word – ‘cure’.”

A more precise focus on the patient

Throughout its history, Mayo Clinic has provided individualized medical care for patients, putting their needs first.

So what has changed?

“The level of precision that we are able to use in treating patients has improved. Genetic testing data along with our other tools – a patient’s family medical history, physical examination and laboratory tests – have increased our understanding of how disease develops and how our individual bodies are more or less susceptible to a particular disease or progression of that disease.”

Dr. Sekulic explained that at Mayo Clinic, one of the biggest ways medical care is becoming more precise is in the selection of drug therapies based on a patient’s genetics characteristic. This is known as pharmacogenomics.

“Our genetics dictate our hair, skin and eye color, and it also influences how we metabolize or process medications,” says Dr. Sekulic. “Some of us will process a medication quickly and others more slowly. This influences the dose of the medication that we need and also whether we respond to a given treatment. Some people may even experience side effects from a drug because of their genetic makeup.”

Through the RIGHT 10K study at Mayo, information about 19 drug-gene reactions has been added to the electronic medical record so that physicians get an alert when prescribing certain medication that could be impacted by a patient’s genetic characteristics. These alerts have triggered more than 3,000 times.

“Things are advancing so quickly that someday we will look back at where we are today and be amazed at how much has changed,” adds Dr. Sekulic.

Dr. Sekulic is an associate professor of Dermatology at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Arizona. He spoke with patients in Rochester as part of a Meet the Researcher gathering, a session designed to provide patients with information about Mayo Clinic’s research activities.

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Tags: #DNA sequencing costs, #PrecisionMedicine, #RIGHT 10K study, #targeted therapies, center for individualized medicine, Dr. Aleksandar Sekulic, mayo clinic, Melanoma, PGx, pharmacogenomics, Uncategorized

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