The human body is extremely complex. A drug therapy may work for one patient, but not another with the same disease. This is one reason why we need numerous treatment options for diseases like cancer. Advancements in science contribute to today’s understanding: a patient’s response to treatment is greatly dependent upon his or her molecular profile. Biopharmaceutical researchers are at the forefront of using this new understanding to improve patient care.
For Dr. Bernie Zeiher, president of global development at Astellas, improving patient care is personal. Losing his mother to pancreatic cancer while he was in medical school is his motivation to move medicine in a better direction. At Astellas, he’s boldly advancing the potential of personalized medicine. Personalized medicine is an emerging science that helps doctors treat the individual. Using diagnostic tools like genetic testing, doctors can better assess which treatments will be best for each patient.
Dr. Zeiher explains, “Now with more targeted therapies or personalized therapies, you can test the tumor or test the blood to determine that, in fact, the person has a particular mutation for example. That will guide which therapy you choose and it also increases the likelihood that the patient will respond.”
Biopharmaceutical industry researchers like Dr. Zeiher drive much of the innovation behind personalized medicine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first personalized therapy in the 1990s, a treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer. In recent years, personalized medicines have dramatically improved treatment of diseases like cystic fibrosis and hepatitis C. The innovations continue. In 2015, more than 25 percent of new medicines approved by the FDA were personalized, and 35 percent of new cancer treatments were personalized.
The promise of personalized medicine is to get the right treatment to the right patient the first time. This increased efficiency promises not only to improve patient outcomes, but to decrease health care costs. For example, it’s estimated that $604 million would be saved annually by testing metastatic colon cancer patients for a specific gene before treatment.
Biopharmaceutical companies continue the push to bring more advanced treatment options to patients. Forty-two percent of medicines currently in the pipeline are personalized, and investment into personalized medicine will increase by a projected 33 percent over the next five years. Says Dr. Zeiher, “I’m very optimistic about the promise of personalized therapies now becoming reality.” Watch Dr. Zieher’s video story below: