In January’s State of the Union Address, President Obama ushered in an exciting phase in new medical research by introducing the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). This initiative will expand our understanding of personalized medicine, when doctors pick treatments to suit individual patients rather than the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Since January, the President’s advisers have begun to outline ideas to take into account the genetic, environmental, and lifestyle differences between individual patients. This initiative has two main programs: (1) a short term project in personalized cancer treatment, and (2) a long term, all-encompassing study of health care over time.
The short-term cancer portion of the PMI is overseen by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) with broad goals including the expansion of clinical trials harnessing personalized medicine and the development of a national cancer database. The trial, called NCI-MATCH, aims to test new drugs from more than 20 pharmaceutical companies. This trial works by matching the drug(s) to the gene mutations found in individual patients’ tumors rather than matching to the type of cancer. Enrollment in this trial began in August and is currently available at 2,400 sites nationwide. Information on the trial or for how to enroll can be found at the NCI-MATCH website.
The longer-term project took a step towards becoming a reality with the release of the President’s advisers’ report on September 17th. This document outlines recommendations for the recruitment of 1 million volunteers to participate in a study using long-term precision medicine, or picking treatments and drugs individually for each patient rather than by disease. This program will include volunteers as partners rather than subjects in research in many ways, such as sharing of mobile data from activity trackers like Fitbits, access to electronic health records (EHR), and open communication with doctors about additional research participation. This study will be a dynamic and adaptable program that expects to begin volunteer recruitment in early 2016. Stay tuned to the NIH PMI website for opportunities to volunteer!