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Author's profile photo Jasjeet Singh

Healthcare Megatrends – Personalized Medicine: The Future is Now

There was a time when it cost a billion dollars and 10 years to sequence the first human genome. There was a time when genetics was a sub specialty. There was a time when healthcare was far behind the curve with technology.

However, the times they are a changing.  A unique mix of genomic, technological advances combined with a new approach by healthcare providers will change the way we treat illness.

What is personalized medicine?

Personalized medicine describes the customization of healthcare where medical decisions, practices, and/or products are being tailored to the individual patient.  For example, Trastuzumab (Herceptin), is history’s most successful targeted cancer drug. It is prescribed to treat breast cancer induced by over expression of a specific gene (HER2), and is a major pharmacogenetics success story. The drug can shrink tumors, slow disease progression and increase survival. And unlike most chemotherapy drugs trastuzumab is a targeted therapy that kills only cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact. So why isn’t it used in all breast cancers?  We now know through genomics, and testing for this mutation, that this drug is only effective in roughly 25% of breast tumors which are caused by this over expression. Knowing this and using it only in the right patients generates a tremendous savings of healthcare dollars.  The treatment of broad populations with regimens that do not benefit most patients is not economically sustainable, and is increasingly less necessary.

The use of genetic information has played a major role in the journey towards personalized medicine. Decoding genomes will increase our understanding of the genetic make-ups of diseases, which could speed up the development of new drugs, as well as determining more targeted treatment therapies.

Why healthcare providers see personalized medicine as their future?

For healthcare providers, personalized medicine offers the potential to improve the quality of care through more precise diagnostics, more targeted therapies, and access to more accurate and up-to-date patient specific data with regards to their individual condition. Primary care providers will have to build new service lines around prevention and wellness in order to manage the chronic illnesses of the ageing population.  For example, Boston’s Children Hospital implemented a pharmacist-led pharmacogenomics service with the aim to reduce adverse drug reactions using pharmacogenomics. . They expect  a 6% 6% reduction in hospital admissions, and a savings of $850 million per year .  Advances in genomics is improving our ability to predict and prevent adverse drug reactions, predict, preempt, and mitigate disease conditions. Such improvements and enhancements in therapeutic decision making is shifting the emphasis on healthcare from reactive to proactive.  Personalized approaches to healthcare will help eliminate the trial-and-error inefficiencies that inflate health care costs and undermine patient care, improving quality and outcomes of care.

The research initiative “HANA Oncolyzer” is an interdisciplinary cooperation between Charité  Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the SAP Innovation Center, and the Hasso Plattner Institute. This solution allows doctors to understand how a tumor affects a patient down to their DNA. They can then figure out what  therapies will best work against the cancer, and design a personalized approach to cancer care and treatment.  The hope is that genomic insights will reduce the time it takes to find a treatment down from weeks to minutes, bring the most effective therapies to patients faster, and improve the lives of people surviving cancer. With SAP solutions that support prevention, early detection, earlier diagnosis, and more effective treatments, today we can impact the quality of life, and help people live better lives.

With 600 times faster computations analyzing genomic data, SAP is helping revolutionize the ways in which healthcare organizations can gain insights into the biology of diseases.

Imagine a world where every physician will be able to compare in a keystroke their diagnosis with the data of thousands of other patients with the same symptoms and demographic and lifestyle make-up.  Personalized medicine and the huge quantities of data found in hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, social media, and personal health devices, combined with the ability to contextually view the information in real time, need to go hand in hand. All to the benefit for thousands and thousands of “saved lives”.

If you would like to see this scenario in action then have a look at how the HANA Oncolyzer project fights cancer

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