|Dr. Atul Gawande speaking at the Advancing Ethical Research Conference.|
Dr. Demetri, who is a physician at Harvard Medical School, discussed how molecular diagnostics are revolutionizing treatment of cancer patients. He described how “precision medicine” is enabling doctors to better evaluate treatment options. He used the example of the development of Gleevec as a treatment for cancer patients. (The New York Times did a nice piece a few years ago.) In this case, clinical trials using Gleevec treatment alone were sufficient to demonstrate the drug could be effective for the treatment of certain cancer types.
Dr. Demetri went on to suggest that in this era of expanding technologies doctors are working with their patients to identify the best treatment options. One concern he raised is that there are cases where new approaches to treatment are being attempted, but we are “loosing data,” particularly when new treatment options are ineffective.
These two talks made me reflect on CIRM's recently announced Alpha Stem Cell Clinics program. The Alpha Clinics program is designed to apply a systems approach to the development of cell therapies. A major objective of the program is to get the right people with the right technology in right place at the right time. The program will provide funding for the coordinated delivery of advanced cell therapies in specialized medical facilities. The Alpha Clinics program also has a major emphasis on capturing information. One goal of the clinics established through this initiative is to set up a network to gather as much information a possible about cell therapies. This coordinated approach will avoid loosing data and provide doctors, patients and the public with the best information possible about what approaches tested were or were not effected. In short, the Alpha Stem Cell Clinics program is about taking a comprehensive systems approach to the development of new therapies.
Based on this mornings talks, it feels like we are on the right track.