June 2013, Vol 2, No 4

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Personalized Medicine in the Public Arena: Managing Expectations

Sanjiv S. Agarwala, MD


Dear Colleague,

Angelina Jolie’s recent surgery might be termed “the double mastectomy heard ’round the world.” It certainly holds important lessons for physicians, the public, and for your product’s market access. Ms Jolie’s treatment decision, a response to the dreaded mutation of the BRCA gene that gave her a 90% chance of developing breast cancer, can be expected to draw more women to request a BRCA screening – and to induce the public at large to request personalized medicine (PM) healthcare for their cancer. This “populist medical urge” is a potent force. Managed properly, it can do much to advance the utilization of PM strategies, services, and products. Poorly managed, it can twist this newfound awareness of the healing power of PM into a shortsighted attempt to replicate a star’s experience. As oncologists, we need to direct it.

Enter Personalized Medicine in Oncology (PMO). We offer the practicing oncologist practical translational knowledge on PM screening, diagnostics, and treatment that helps channel society’s enthusiasm for PM’s benefits.

Celebrity health crises like this point a double-edged sword at the oncologist. It increases public demand for PM, but there are those who will try to “play doctor” and determine their clinical strategy unilaterally. PMO keeps oncologists informed and prepared to deal with an anxious public, preventing misuse of PM, deflecting populist attempts to control diagnostic and treatment measures.

Each issue of PMO delves into the wide array of the new medicine that is personalized medicine. This knowledge is real power, preparing oncologists to treat each patient according to an enriched knowledge base and stimulating discourse with patients on the application of PM advances. This will foster a healthy interest by the public in PM strategies and practices in oncology, channeling the energy flowing from celebrity health events.

Thank you for being part of our reading community, and as always, we hope this issue of PMO empowers you to best serve your patients.


Sanjiv Agarwala, MD
St. Luke’s Hospital
PMO Board Member

Pancreatic Cancer - July 12, 2013

A Path Toward Pancreatic Cancer Predictive Biomarkers

Dr Rosenberg received his medical degree from the University of California, Irvine, and is currently practicing as a third-year fellow in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Scripps Clinic. Dr Sigal received his medical degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is currently practicing in the Division of Hematology/Oncology [ Read More ]

Uncategorized - July 15, 2013

Budget Impact Model: Epigenetic Assay Can Help Avoid Unnecessary Repeated Prostate Biopsies and Reduce Healthcare Spending

Dr Aubry is Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco, and Senior Medical Director of Quorum Consulting in San Francisco, California. Dr Lieberthal is Assistant Professor at the Jefferson School of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University in [ Read More ]