Uncovering current themes in healthcare and precision medicine
We’re starting this week’s Q&A by introducing one of Cofactor’s Directors: Natalie LaFranzo. She shares her thoughts on JP Morgan, recent FDA draft guidelines, and more!
Q: What were some of the key themes at JP Morgan this year?
A: It was exciting to hear that health care systems are looking to be more dynamic by building on the platforms that they already have in place and almost taking the offense on being innovative with new technologies. We’re supported by the team at Ascension Ventures so we’re really in tune with what’s happening within their institutions such as Intermountain Healthcare. Intermountain is very forward thinking and has made investments to be at the forefront of improving patient care, especially in areas such as oncology precision medicine and so it was really great to see them being willing to share some of their best practices and be open to partnerships that will definitely benefit their patients.
Q: What is one of the most exciting papers you’ve read recently?
A: I was most excited by the statistics that the American Cancer Society just published earlier this month. They looked at the decline in cancer mortality rates over the last twenty five years or so and saw some pretty significant declines in major cancers such as lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer. I think all of these were hovering around a 50 percent decline, a lot of this being attributed to healthy choices such as reductions in smoking and also innovations in early detection and treatment. For me, that makes what we’re doing today just a lot more tangible. What will we see twenty five years from now? How will the work and what we’re learning today from the basic science side through translational and into the clinic impact the lifestyle choices and the lifespan that our generation will have? It’s really exciting stuff.
Q: The FDA just released draft guidelines on Companion Diagnostics. What were some key takeaways?
A: These draft guidelines are an exciting step that the FDA is taking to try to support innovation in diagnostics and provide the best care for patients, which I think is fantastic. It has the potential to both help the diagnostic developers get their tools into the clinic in a more cost effective way but it also offers clinicians access to more therapy options for patients without additional biopsies and invasive procedures. I think it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in practice but I’m sure that the I speak for the entire industry when I say that we’re grateful to the FDA for taking feedback from the field and being forward thinking in their approach.
Q: What does personalized therapy mean to you?
A: I really like Siddhartha Mukherjee’s article that he published in 2017 in The New Yorker called Cancer’s Invasion Equation and the author does a fantastic job of describing cancer and more specifically of immunotherapy and in the article reminds us that we not only have to understand what the cancer is doing to the body but also what our bodies are doing to cancer. In my mind that’s really the key to personalized therapy and precision medicine is we have to not only understand the mechanics of the disease but we also really have to understand the patient and how they’re responding to the disease and and how they might benefit from any therapy choices that we make. So I’m excited to see how this new way of thinking evolves with the discipline of immunotherapy and I think it will help us better provide personalized treatments to patients.
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