Intermountain Healthcare leaders discuss cancer with Obama, Biden

Stock image, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY— Intermountain Healthcare participated in the White House Precision Medicine Initiative Summit Feb. 25. The event, which included an address by President Barack Obama, brought together a small group of leaders from the federal government, private sector, academia, research organizations and health provider organizations such as Intermountain.  The initiative’s goal is to transform the way health is improved and disease is treated.

Precision medicine is an innovative approach that takes individual differences in genetics, environments and lifestyles and gives medical professionals the resources to specifically identify treatments and target illnesses of each patient.

Read more: Utah genomics lab certified; new hope to find personalized cancer therapies

Intermountain was represented at the White House Summit by Dr. Lincoln Nadauld, executive director of Intermountain Precision Genomics, which focuses on the treatment of cancer.

On Feb. 26, Intermountain President and CEO Dr. Charles Sorenson and Dr. Raj Srivastava, Intermountain’s research medical director, met with Vice President Joe Biden in Salt Lake City.  In meetings with Intermountain leadership and other Utah medical organizations, Biden discussed the administration’s “moonshot” effort to cure cancer.

Intermountain has been studying precision medicine extensively for the past several years and has developed its nationally leading Precision Cancer Genomics program. The program has been recognized for being able to conduct DNA testing that typically matches advanced cancer patients with medications that lengthen lifespan and improve quality of life, all at about the same cost of traditional cancer therapies.

At Intermountain Precision Genomics’ in-house laboratory, experts analyze the DNA and genetic makeup of a cancer patient’s tumor, enabling detection of the individual genes with errors in a person’s cancer to determine treatment options. The testing is proprietary to Intermountain Healthcare, but access to it is available to oncologists anywhere. The testing serves patients with late-stage cancer who have failed in a traditional treatment method.

Intermountain is the only integrated healthcare system in the nation with the capability of testing and providing treatment for the greatest number of actionable gene mutation types, offering the most advanced next-generation sequencing available.  In addition, Intermountain is typically able to gain access to limited distribution and specialty drugs for its patients.

Nearly 80 percent of the patients treated at Intermountain Precision Genomics have been connected to targeted drug therapies. No other healthcare system has had comparable success. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, which focuses on destroying rapidly dividing cells, targeted therapies identify other features that are more specific to cancer cells. These medications work in individual ways, but all interfere with the ability of the cancer cell to grow, divide, repair and communicate with other cells.

Intermountain Precision Genomics’ expertise is enhanced by the fact that Intermountain Healthcare has the nation’s largest biorepository, started in 1975, which stores more than 3 million tissue samples used for the advancement of cancer and other research.

Intermountain Precision Genomics has recently published several studies related to this ground-breaking cancer therapy, including “Precision Medicine To Improve Survival Without Increasing Costs In Advanced Cancer Patients.”

“These results are significant and encouraging,” Nadauld said. “They underscore the value of precision medicine to patients today, offering increased survival without increasing costs.”

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Twitter: @STGnews

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