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

Uncategorized - July 12, 2013

First-in-Class PI3K Inhibitor Shows Remarkable Phase 1 Results in CLL

A first-in-class PI3 kinase (PI3K) inhibitor achieved dramatic responses in a phase 1 study of heavily pretreated relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Idelalisib (GS-1101) produced rapid and durable tumor shrinkage in about half the patients who received the drug. These results were reported at a pre-ASCO press cast and at [ Read More ]

Uncategorized - July 12, 2013

Anti–PD-L1 Drug Achieves Response in Variety of Tumors

The engineered PD-L1–targeted antibody shows impressive tumor shrinkage rates in several types of cancers that had progressed on several lines of previous therapy. In a phase 1 study, the novel agent demonstrated safety and durable responses in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), melanoma, and kidney, colorectal, and gastric cancers. The [ Read More ]