By Kathy Giusti
It is an incredible honor to be at the White House today when President Obama announces several milestones reached in Precision Medicine Initiative’s first year. I could not be more proud to represent the cancer community as so many committed individuals come together to advance this groundbreaking program.
The Precision Medicine Initiative is a unique scientific endeavor. First, it aims to catalyze progress in precision not just for one disease but across all—from all-too-common diseases like cancer and diabetes to conditions so rare they affect just one-in-a-million. And second, the Precision Medicine Initiative’s commitment to patient involvement is unprecedented, positioning patients not just as participants but as true partners in the research process.
In fact, its very success demands that communities nationwide share their health data to answer questions about the devastating diseases that touch us all: what genes influence our risk of cancer or Alzheimer’s or heart disease? How can we use genomics and other molecular information tailor treatment plans? Our health data not only empowers patients to manage their own personal journeys, but compiled and analyzed alongside others’, will shed unprecedented insight into the drivers of disease and help facilitate a new generation of hypotheses and treatment approaches.
We have already seen what can be accomplished when patients engaged deeply and actively in the research process. The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) has made this approach to research our top priority. At the heart of our organization’s precision medicine program is our CoMMpass study, which mined the genomes of 1,000 patients with the fatal blood cancer, multiple myeloma. Our learnings have painted an increasingly clear picture of the biology of multiple myeloma, the mechanisms that drive its growth, and the best treatments to stem its deadly spread. And, because we’ve shared data generated by this study — the most robust look at multiple myeloma seen to date — with the global research community, we’ve ensured that the impact of our learnings go beyond myeloma.
Now imagine the progress we can make by studying a million or more people as the Precision Medicine Initiative aims to do. It is an ambitious goal, but one we believe is achievable if all those who want to create a healthier world raise their hand for research. If I go first, will you follow?