President Obama has announced a new initiative that aims to improve medical treatments for many diseases by tailoring treatments to a patient’s unique genetic makeup.
During his Jan. 20 State of the Union address , the president unveiled the Precision Medicine Initiative, a plan to increase physicians’ ability to take a patient’s individual genetic makeup and molecular subtypes of diseases into account to improve the chances of successful treatment.
“I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine – one that delivers the right treatment at the right time,” President Obama said in his speech. “In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes – and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.”
American College of Cardiology President Patrick T. O’Gara called the announcement an important step for continuing medical progress.
“Incredible advances have already been made in cardiovascular research, and I hope initiatives like this will lead to even more important discoveries, treatments, and cures that can be directed to patients more quickly,” Dr. O’Gara said in a statement . “The promise of precision medicine is within our grasp.”
Few details on the initiative were released during the State of the Union address; however, research into precision medicine, also known as personalized medicine, is already underway. In August 2014, the National Institutes of Health launched the Adjuvant Lung Cancer Enrichment Marker Identification and Sequencing Trials, or ALCHEMIST, a 3-part clinical trial to identify early-stage lung cancer patients with tumors that harbor certain uncommon genetic changes. The research will evaluate whether drug treatments targeted against those changes can lead to improved survival. The project adds to research by the Cancer Genome Atlas , a collaboration between the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute , both divisions of NIH.
Additionally, in 2013, the American Heart Association set aside a 5-year, $30 million research fund to dig deeper into two large national studies in hopes of finding more clues to personalized treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease. The AHA and its two main collaborators, the University of Mississippi and Boston University, said their goal is to expand population studies by adding more research subjects and more genetic analysis.
Although much of the president’s address focused on nonmedical issues, he did take the opportunity to let legislators in the Republican-led Congress know that he would veto any bill that seeks to undo progress gained under the Affordable Care Act.
“We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix,” President Obama said. “And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.”
The president also urged Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would require businesses to provide employees up to 7 paid sick days per year. His administration also plans to help more states adopt sick leave laws of their own, he said.
“Since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn 7 days of paid sick leave,” he said.