February 21, 2011

Report from the MMRF Personalized Medicine Roundtable; Kathy Giusti, CEO

Today, a patient diagnosed with breast cancer is most likely to be treated in one of three ways, as determined by a molecular analysis of her tumor. For a patient with lung cancer, treatment decisions are often informed by the existence of a specific genetic mutation known to make certain treatments more successful. In these and other cancers, multiple clinical trials are currently underway testing new medicines among genetically defined subgroups of patients.

In multiple myeloma, this kind of “personalized” clinical decision-making is not so advanced. We have made enormous strides in bringing new therapies to patients in the past decade – and in improving patients’ prognosis as a result – but there is still much to be done to advance our basic biological understanding of the disease and to tailor an individualized course of treatment.

In the near-term, we need answers to why some patients respond better than others to today’s medicines, and how we should respond when they develop resistance. Longer-term, we need a greater understanding of the biological changes that occur throughout the course of a person’s disease, in order to steer our clinical development efforts toward known mechanisms in multiple myeloma.

At MMRF and MMRC we are laying important groundwork toward these goals across the entire drug development continuum: supporting basic research to identify important molecular pathways that may be targets for drug development; advancing clinical development strategies that exploit this understanding; and organizing a community response that unites as many patients and physicians as possible to improve treatment for all.

Last week we previewed our long-term vision for personalized medicine in a half-day meeting with 40 of the leading minds in the field. We heard about the state of the art in cancer care from several perspectives – academic research institutions, community cancer centers, drug developers, diagnostics companies, IT companies, and others. We gained enormously helpful feedback that will be critically important to all of us as we move ahead.

As a group we also found many points of intersection that underscore the value in looking across the many forms of cancer, rather than segmenting our efforts. We talked about common pathways through which multiple cancers develop, where finding a way to intervene may have huge implications for several disease types.

I left the Roundtable more energized than ever about the progress we have already made against personalized medicine and the bold vision we will advance in the months to come. To do so we need patients’ support of this effort – specifically donating their tissue to our Tissue Bank – like never before. As a patient myself, I am truly excited at the prospect of helping to bring patients better, more personalized treatments, and I ask all those who can to join me by banking their tissue at their next bone marrow biopsy.