Translating Cancer Genetics into Patient Care Focus of New Joint Center for Precision Medicine

November 2013, Vol 4, No 9 - Value Propositions


A new collaborative initiative among Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has been established to create treatment pathways based on precision (or personalized) medicine for patients with advanced cancer and to try to accelerate the development of personalized therapies.

“This center will allow us to be optimally positioned to answer the big questions in cancer genetics, especially as they affect clinical decision-making,” said Levi Garraway, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Dana-Farber and the Joint Center’s Director. “We seek to understand which genetic and other molecular alterations predict how tumors will respond to targeted drugs, why some patients become resistant to drugs, and what that means about the treatments that should be tried next.”

The mission of the Joint Center “is to accelerate the development of personalized therapies that achieve long-term disease control and, eventually, the cure of many patients with advanced cancer,” Dr Garraway said. Acknowledging the substantial expertise within these 4 institutions, the heads of these institutions reflected on this new effort to speed up the integration of personalized medicine into patient care.

Edward Benz, Jr, MD, President of Dana-Farber, said, “The center is creat­ing a new capability to use these huge resources in sequencing and pathology and making sure the data gets to caregivers to help customize treatment.”

“This exciting collaboration will allow the life-giving breakthrough of advanced genetic analysis of cancer to be translated into clinical care,” said Betsy Nabel, MD, President of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Patients will benefit from having the latest genetic discoveries applied to an individual treatment plan,” she added.

“This is an extraordinary moment,” said Eric Lander, PhD, President and Director of the Broad Institute. “By learning from genomic information obtained in the course of clinical care of patients, this remarkable new center will be poised to make critical discoveries, and to ensure that those discoveries get translated back to the clinic.”

Neal Lindeman, MD, Director of the Center for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, added, “This information can be used to design treatments that are more effective from the beginning and can be used to anticipate the changes each cancer will make during treatment.” Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; November 12, 2013