This more specific treatment will give patients targeted therapies and better results.
Personalized medicine is already benefiting patients today, especially those suffering from certain types of cancer.
University of Colorado Hospital patient Andy Hill says that less than one year ago, he "had chest pains, considerable fatigue - hard to get out of bed in the mornings."
Hill was fighting stage 3 lung cancer with metastasis. He was exhausted and could hardly climb the stairs in his house back in Seattle.
Hill says his cancer diagnosis caught everyone by surprise.
"I think the last thing they would a thought with have 46-year-old - never smoked, in good shape - would be lung cancer," he said.
Doctors tried both chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but Hill saw few results and significant side effects. He says at one point he could not eat anything because the chemo and radiation treatments had made his throat sore.
This past summer, researchers at the University of Colorado Hospital ran a genetic test on the tumor in his lungs. This test allowed them to narrow down the specific type of cancer he had, allowing his doctors to start him on a trial using a new drug.
Hill says the results were amazing.
"I started taking the drugs. I take a pill twice a day, and within a week, all the symptoms had disappeared," he said.
Hill now flies from Seattle to Denver about once a month for tests and treatments.
Because of the successes they have had with Hill and patients like him, researchers at CU now run molecular tests on the tumors of all lung cancer patients. Over the past several years they have learned that abnormalities and particular genes in the lung cancer can affect how you respond to certain drugs.
Researchers are now discovering that cancers, once thought to be the same, are in fact very different, especially when it comes to treatment.
"Ten years ago, there was really only one type of non-small cell lung cancer. Now, we know there are specific treatments for maybe two or three different molecular subtypes of lung cancer," Dr. Ross Camidge from CU said. "In 10 years time, my guess is there might be a thousand different types of lung cancer, and each will need a different treatment."
This personalized medicine approach could work for other diseases too.
Kaiser Permanente researcher Dr. Heather Spencer Feigelson said, "I can at least help determine what the best treatment is and spare you treatment that's not going to work."
Kaiser Permanente researchers have found genetic markers that predict whether a patient's colon cancer will react to chemo.
"I really think this is the future of cancer treatment. In 2020, when you are diagnosed with cancer, we'll get a sample of your tumor and you'll sit down with your oncologist and there will be a whole panel of genetic changes," Feigelson said.
By the year 2020, more than just cancer will be treated with personalized medicine. Dr. Greg Downey at National Jewish Health has been studying personalized medicine and believes by 2020, genetic testing and targeting drugs for specific patients will revolutionize our health care system. He says personalized medicine will also be used to treat diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and asthma.
"In 10 or 20 years, I think we will be much more exact in our ability to predict, and much more targeted in our way to treat," Downey said.
Because Hill's treatment was so successful, he can once again play with his kids and run with his wife. He is also back to playing soccer, running, skiing and hiking.
While personalized medicine is making some incredible advancements, many doctors do not expect a cure for most congenital or birth defects, or even a way to get rid of the common cold -prevention will still be the key.
If you have more questions on the cancer treatments, you can call 720-848-0392 or visit http://www.uch.edu/conditions/cancer/index1.aspx.
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