October 25, 2021

‘We’ve only just begun to glimpse what is possible’ — and more thought-provoking quotes from Mayo Clinic’s 10th Annual Individualizing Medicine Conference

By Susan Murphy

Genomics experts highlighted the latest cutting-edge precision medicine strategies to accelerate medical breakthroughs at the 10th Annual Mayo Clinic Individualizing Medicine Conference. More than 350 researchers, clinicians and health care workers from across the world attended the virtual conference to learn firsthand how scientists are advancing the frontiers of individualized medicine.

"We truly now have the opportunity to reap the full potential of individualized medicine," said Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic during his keynote address. "The road ahead must be focused on expanding our genomic tools and further integrating individualized medicine. We've only just begun to glimpse what is possible."

In summarizing the conference, here are more thought-provoking and notable quotes from some of the conference speakers, categorized by key topics:

Individualized medicine undergoing a revolution

Mayo Clinic Talks Podcast: Genes & Your Health
Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine
has launched a new podcast miniseries,
"Genes & Your Health." The podcast aims to distill
the latest concepts in genetics that are
essential to providing the best care for patients.

"Individualized medicine still has a great deal to contribute to the care of every patient, everywhere and that's our goal." - Richard Weinshilboum, M.D., co-director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine Pharmacogenomics Program

"Impactful genomic-informed patient care leads to better medical care. It's very exciting to see the growth of genome and exome sequencing. We're very proud that because of our collective work, we now have rare disease genomics clinics embedded in different Mayo Clinic departments to truly provide care for patients who have high needs."  - Konstantinos Lazaridis, M.D., the Carlson and Nelson Endowed Executive Director for Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine

"Genomics has not only become a crucial clinical tool, but we're at the point of complementing it and addressing patient needs in ways that, 20 years ago, would have been inconceivable. Now, we need to move beyond prolonging life and toward developing cures." - Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic 

Artificial intelligence accelerating medical discoveries

"A lot of these artificial intelligence tools can take advantage of multiple data sets, but also with the computational power, allow you to really simultaneously look at multiple phenotypes. And that will probably be the future in the research and discovery side." - Liewei Wang, M.D., Ph.D., the Bernard and Edith Waterman Director, Pharmacogenomics Program

"AI is rapidly transforming medicine. To find pancreatic cancers earlier, our long-term strategy is to develop a pancreatic AI screening tool, which will likely be a multi-pronged approach. It looks quite promising." - Michael Wallace, M.D., gastroenterologist, Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida.

"The success of AI-driven genomic medicine requires computer scientists, physicians and genomic experts collaborating closely to meet the needs of the patient. - Arjun Athreya, Ph.D., computer scientist, Mayo 'Clinic's Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

"We're now in the process of validating ALMOND (an artificial intelligence algorithm) prospectively and seeing if multi-omics can be integrated to further enhance prediction of major depressive disorder. This would lead to highly individualized treatments based on patient level factors for depressed patients." -William Bobo, M.D., chair, Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida

"To get to where we want to get to as humanity, we need to be able to share data across the world." - Eric Klee, Ph.D., associate director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine Bioinformatics program

Health disparities and sex and gender differences

"There is a strong gender bias in most brain diseases. Females are more likely to get dementia, meningiomas, traumatic brain injury, migraine and long COVID-19. We need analysis of sex differences in baseline patient characteristics, progression of the disease and clinical outcomes even when using digital or fluid biomarkers." - Antonella Santuccione Chadha, M.D., CEO of Women's Brain Project

"Sex really is a key characteristic that shapes who we are. It's important to use knowledge of sex differences in genomics in order to think about the best treatment strategy for each sex. Failing to do so could hinder progress in individualized medicine."  - Stacey Winham, Ph.D., statistical geneticist, Mayo Clinic

"Endometrial cancer is often diagnosed by symptoms of post-menopausal bleeding. But in Black women, that's not always the way it manifests, or symptoms are dismissed by the patient or physician...leading to the greatest health disparity in U.S. women's cancers." – Marina Walther Antonio, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic researcher who studies the microbiome's role in women's health, in particular gynecologic cancers

"A major issue with health disparities is a lack of ancestral diversity in clinical research. We must understand the variation of the genome of people across the world. Currently, approximately 80% of all studies of genomic medicine are done in European populations, but they only make up 10% of the world's population. " - Vence L. Bonham, Jr., J.D., acting deputy director of the National Human Genome Research Institute 

"In regard to health disparities and the role genomics plays, we need to help people understand the value of genomics and precision care in their community." - Megan Allyse, Ph.D., associate professor of Biomedical Ethics, Mayo Clinic

Population genomics and genomic sequencing

"Our mission is to accelerate health research and medical breakthroughs to enable individualized prevention, treatment and care for all of us, starting with nurturing relationships within a million or more partners from all walks of life for decades…and then catalyzing a robust ecosystem for researchers and funders that are hungry to use and support it." - Joshua Denny, M.D., CEO of the NIH All of Us Research Program

"In population genomics, how do we take a cohort of 1 million and translate its findings for 3 million? The challenge for public health is to figure out how the tools of genomics can be translated into actions to actually prevent disease." - Muin Khoury, M.D., Ph.D., director, Office of Genomics and Precision Public Health, Centers for Disease Control

"Having been at the NIH during the time when the Human Genome Project was being done, I think that we underestimated the difficulty in figuring out what changes in DNA sequence actually mean. We also underestimated how difficult it was going to be to figure out how gene changes interact with each other as well as environmental effects." - Robert Nussbaum, M.D., chief medical officer, Invitae

"If there's anything I'm passionate about, it's ensuring that patients are educated about the benefits and special considerations that go along with genetic testing. -Teresa Kruisselbrink, M.S., certified genetic counselor, Mayo Clinic

"We're entering an era where it doesn't matter where the cancer started. It's understanding the underlying genetic abnormality that led to the cancer and targeting that. Hereditary or inherited factors play a key role in the development of many cancers, and understanding this risk is important for diagnosis, prevention in family members and precision treatment." - Jewel Samadder, M.D., gastroenterologist and hepatologist, Mayo Clinic

Emerging therapies and precision cancer advancements

"The promise of proteomics is several-fold: Identifying new biomarkers can lead to early diagnosis, predictive biomarkers can predict outcome, and monitoring disease after treating the patient. - Akhilesh Pandey, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Mayo Clinic Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and the Center for Individualized Medicine

"Our study is the first molecular atlas of the human primary motor cortex, and the first time that single-cell studies have been conducted in ALS and FTD postmortem tissue." - Veronique Belzil, Ph.D., neurogeneticist and epigenomics researcher, Mayo Clinic

"By 2050, antimicrobial resistance is expected to be one of the world's biggest killers, resulting in millions of deaths per year. Phage therapy could provide a potential treatment strategy." - Gina Suh, M.D., infectious diseases specialist, Mayo Clinic

"The advantage of looking at the blood is we may in fact find tumor related material before the onset of a malignancy. With advances in technology, we're now in the era of early detection through blood, including multi-cancer early detection." -  Minetta Liu, M.D., Mayo Clinic oncologist, who focuses on breast cancer and blood-based biomarkers

"We think that T-Cell therapy will eventually turn into a cure for cancer, but we have a lot of things to achieve to meet this outcome goal. 'We're seeing immunotherapies deliver long-term survival to many patients with blood cancers who previously had little hope." - Hong Qin, M.D., Ph.D., director of Regenerative Immunotherapies at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida.

Save the Date: In Spring 2022, Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine will present "Direct to Consumer Clinical Trials Symposium."  The annual Individualizing Medicine Conference will take place on Oct. 7-8, 2022 at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Tags: artificial intelligence, cancer genomics, genomic medicine, genomic medicine, individualized medicine, Multi-omics, Precision Medicine, Rare and undiagnosed diseases, Research

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