As time goes on and researchers eek new treatments, one thing has become abundantly clear: a one-size-fits-all approach to
treatment doesn’t always work. According
to the PMC (Personalized Medicine
Coalition), approximately 75 percent of
cancer drugs are ineffective in patients.
In addition, 70 percent of Alzheimer’s
drugs, 50 percent of arthritis drugs, and
43 percent of diabetes are, on average,
insufficient to treat these conditions, as
they too are ineffective for patients.
Genentech Inc., a biotechnology company
and subsidiary of Roche as of 2009, is a leader
in biologics manufacturing and has a hand in
personalized medicines. Josina Reddy, M.D.,
Ph.D., Senior Group Medical Director for
Genentech, participated in an exclusive Q&A with
Pharmaceutical Processing to discuss some of the
driving factors of personalized medicine.
What are some of the various ways a
medicine can be personalized?
Reddy: When we talk about personalized medicine
for cancer treatment today, it means studying the
characteristics of an individual’s cancer cells in
order to determine which specific abnormalities
are present so that a physician can choose the
best treatment for that specific patient. We used
to think that all cancers arising in a given organ
were similar and should be treated the same
way, but now we can identify specific subsets of
cancer that we can treat with newer medicines
designed to attack those specific abnormalities
in an individual’s cancer. In short, we can use
information about the DNA and proteins in an
individual’s cancer cells to best match that person
with the right cancer treatment at the right time.
What is driving personalized medicine?
Reddy: In oncology, one key driver is our
increased understanding of the underlying biology
of the disease. Advances in genome sequencing
and an explosion of diagnostic tools have led to
a profound realization that in many cases we can
treat a cancer not based on where it is found in
the body but rather by its underlying biology.
Take for example lung cancer—we now know that
two people whose disease looks similar under the
microscope can have very different diseases at the
molecular level, requiring different treatments.
We’re seeing this across other cancer types as well
including skin, breast, and many blood cancers.
How does the concept of personalized
medicines of today compare to what we
thought of it 5, 10, or 20 years ago?
Reddy: Over the past 20 years, we’ve witnessed
an explosion in the availability of molecular
Genentech explains some of the trends and driving factors of
By Meg La Torre-Snyder, Editor
A shipping container used to ship cryovessels that contain biologic
medicines. The cryovessels are placed inside, packed with dry ice,
and then closed and moved using a fork lift. Vacaville, CA. (Courtesy
of Genentech. Photography by David Vergne.)