When scientists first read the entire genetic code of a human being in 2003, the monumental achievement promised a new era in medicine.
What diseases we get, and how we respond to drugs, depends in large part on our own individual genes. Knowing our own genetic code, therefore, makes it possible to design specific treatments that work best for each person – an approach known as personalized medicine.This personalized approach turns out to be especially important in cancer treatment. Tumors that seem to be of the same type can actually have very different underlying genetic mutations.
And because many of today’s drugs are designed to target particular genetic vulnerabilities of cancer cells, a drug that is effective for some tumors will fail for others.Realizing the enormous promise of personalized medicine hasn’t been quick or easy. It has required major scientific and technological advances to prove the links between genetic variations and diseases, and to dramatically lower the costs of identifying and sequencing genes.
But recent progress has been impressive. In the last few years, more than one-quarter of all new drugs approved by the FDA have been personalized medicines. And by 2020, the total market for targeted therapies and gene tests is expected to top $149 billion per year.One of the many companies that have been driving this rapid progress is Pittsburgh-based Helomics. The company has developed clinical tests for key genes and other biomarkers in a whole range of different cancers.
Studies show that a personalized approach using Helomics’ ChemoFx test brings a 14-month improvement in overall survival in patients with gynecologic cancer. The BioSpeciFx test, for example, examines the genes that are active in cancer cells to reliably inform the patient’s tumor response to drugs. Helomics is also expanding its reach with a new technology it calls D-CHIP and a strategic collaboration with Skyline Medical (NASDAQ:SKLN), which markets an innovative system for collecting and disposing of fluids from patients. So more and more in 2018, your drugs will be personalized just for you.