Obama details initiative to cure cancer, diabetes

US President Barack Obama Friday unveiled the details of a bold new research effort, which brought doctors “closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes”.
Obama said that the precision medicine initiative “brings America closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes, and gives all of us access, potentially, to the personalised information that we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier”.

Obama, who first mentioned the initiative in his State of the Union address Jan 20, has called for an investment of $215 million for the initiative, in the 2016 budget proposal, which he would send to the Congress next week.

The US president noted that doctors have always tried to come up with personalised treatments for patients, such as matching blood transfusion to a blood type.

“What if matching a cancer cure to our genetic code was just as easy, just as standard?” he asked at an event on the initiative at the White House. “What if figuring out the right dose of medicine was as simple as taking our temperature?”

“That’s the promise of precision medicine — delivering the right treatments, at the right time, every time to the right person,” Obama said.

Most existing medical treatments were considered to be just a “one-size-fits-all approach”, designed for the “average patient”.

As a result, such treatments can be very successful for some patients, but not for others, according to a White House statement.

The new initiative, however, provides “tools to better understand the complex mechanisms underlying a patient’s health, disease, or condition, and to better predict which treatments will be most effective,” the statement said.

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It stressed that advances in precision medicine have already led to “a transformation in the way we can treat diseases such as cancer”.

Patients with breast, lung, and colorectal cancers, as well as melanoma and leukaemia are now routinely undergoing molecular testing as part of patient care, and their doctors are choosing treatments based on this information.

The funding Obama wanted for the initiative would include $130 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a voluntary national research group of a million or more volunteers.

This project will “leverage existing research and clinical networks and build on innovative research models”, the White House said.

The NIH’s National Cancer Institute would receive $70 million to scale up efforts to identify genomic drivers in cancer and apply that knowledge in the development of more effective approaches to cancer treatment.

A total of $10 million would go to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop new approaches for evaluating next-generation genetic tests.

Another $5 million would go to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to support the development of standards that address privacy and enable secure exchange of data across systems.

“So the precision medicine initiative we’re launching today will lay the foundation for a new generation of lifesaving discoveries,” Obama said, adding that there’s bipartisan support for the research plan.

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