Genetic testing to personalize treatment
May 18, 2010 3:22 PM
SF State will host its third annual one-day conference where scientists, educators, and health industry professionals will be able to share their new advancements in medical care.
This year's conference, "Personalized Medicine 3.0-- Targeting Cancer," will be held on May 25 and will focus on the application of genomic data to ensure that each unique patient is receiving the right treatments and preventive measures at the right time.
"There is subtle genetic variation that influence how drugs are metabolized," said Dr. Michael Goldman, professor and chair of the biology department. "If you can figure out what's genetically different, you could do a simple blood DNA test to tell if you're genotype A or B, so if you're A, you get drug A, et cetera."
Considering that some of the best medicines in the world only work for half of the people who take them, genetic variation allows medicine to be tweaked and personalized for each individual.
DNA tests will allow doctors to find out if family members, whose family history, for example, includes diabetes, are at risk and how to help prevent or treat it.
This is called pharmacogenomics-- seeing how likely we are to get a disease and change our lifestyle appropriately.
The conference will concentrate on cancer therapy and how some people respond to drugs for their tumors differently.
"This can let people target cancer therapies a lot better than they do now," Goldman said.
By using pharmacogenomics, researchers can characterize the tumors genetically to see the prognosis and decide whether to treat it or leave it alone. This allows them to do a refined diagnosis.
"Last year one of our panel discussions was concentrated around cancer and it was a good pushing off point," Goldman said. "I think cancer is a big part of medicine and personalized medicine. A lot of companies specialize in cancer therapy so it kind of makes sense."
One general misconception surrounding personalized medicine is that it creates one drug made for one specific individual. According to Goldman, however, it can also be used for people who are genetically similar.
"This is the leading edge of research in the future," Goldman said. "We want our students to think about what they want to do with their careers and meet with the speakers."
In the middle of the last century, researchers recognized that individuals respond to drugs in different ways, but in the last 10-15 years, geneticists became capable of looking at the bigger picture. To do so, drugs are administered, genetic information is read and researchers watch to predict a response in the future.
"We thought of it and recognized its importance," Goldman said. "We have alumni in the industry and academia as well, so why not [have it at SF State]? Our faculty, staff and students can mix with people in the industry."
Speakers for the event include: Biotechnology Correspondent David Ewing Duncan, Genentech Fellow Dr. Napoleone Ferrara and Vice President of Clinical Development at BioMarin Pharmaceutical, Inc. Dr. Jackie Walling.
"I remember having a lunch conversation at the golf course across from SF State with one of the development people at Harding Park. We thought: How can we make science and engineering more productive and how can we promote it?" said Dan Maher, Senior Vice President at BioMarin Pharmaceutical and organizer of Personalized Medicine.
Maher said his solution was to create the annual conference that would highlight and promote the best science all over the world.
"I wanted to take advantage of the networking over the years," he said.
Fiscal Analyst for the College of Science and Engineering and committee organizer Arlene Essex has been doing some work within the biology department for the event.
"At the last two conferences, I found them interesting and exciting," said Essex. "I wanted to help and get the administration and financial side organized."
A big concern on the topic of personalized medicine is that people will rely on companies, such as DNA Direct or Pathway Genomics, to provide them with genetic results, and ignore their doctor's prescriptions. Regardless, there are high hopes that the conference will help raise awareness for both caregivers and patients.
"Past years' outcomes have been excellent. This year we hope to promote the great science going on at SF State," Maher said.
For students interested in attending the conference, please e-mail email@example.com. Cost is $25 for students and $50 for faculty and staff.
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