ROBERT GOLDBERG: I am the director of the Manhattan Institute Center for Medical Progress and chair of its Twenty-First Century FDA Task Force. Our center is dedicated to sustaining the incentives and freedom required to transform scientific discoveries into treatments that in turn can enrich and lengthen life.
Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach is making this transformation his life's work. As head of the National Cancer Institute, he has been a leading cancer researcher in our country. He has also been a patient, fighting cancer with as much medical might and resources as can be marshaled on behalf of patients. Dr. von Eschenbach has, more than any other public health official-and perhaps more than any cancer researcher-moved cancer care and health care into the era of personalized medicine.
We are going to be using information obtained from the human genome on how genetic differences in our responses to drugs and disease can create treatments targeted to achieve the greatest benefit and the least risk. We have seen the fruits of this knowledge being applied in cancer. Drugs such as Herceptin (for breast cancer), Gleevec, and Erbitux, switch off the production of proteins that create cancer cells, leaving normal cells intact. These treatments can increasingly be tailored to genetic variations. They all attack cancer without the draining and costly side effects of chemotherapy, and the ability to target treatments will enable us to tailor who gets what drugs. Moving toward personalized medicine-not lawsuits, bureaucrats, or longer clinical trials-will make medicine safer and more effective, in the final analysis.
Dr. von Eschenbach will describe what lies ahead and how we can get there. It is not a matter of if, but rather when and how, personalized medicine becomes the norm. It is good to hail the discovery process, but unless we can commercialize safe and effective treatments, progress against disease will stall.