Personalized medicine should be based on science, but also on quality care for the individual patient.
Q: Are you worried that cancer care will become less personalized in light of discussions about personalized medicine?
A: We are entering a new era of cancer care, heralded by the genomics revolution. But as revolutionary as our science has been, scant attention has been paid to how we actually deliver the care our patients need.
From large urban academic cancer centers to small centers and offices throughout our nation, genomics is going to change cancer care. We are beginning to understand that if we are to bring the benefits of this new science into the care process, we’ll have to look more carefully at the cancer care model. We have to figure out how to bring the benefits of science to the bedside and the examining room more efficiently and more effectively than ever before in an atmosphere that doesn’t leave the personal touch behind.
We can’t lose sight of the fact that, while the science is astounding, the care we offer and receive must meet the expectations of our patients and families. We must pay close attention to the needs of our patients and deliver on those expectations. High-quality, high-value cancer care is more than running a lab test and offering treatment. It is also about ensuring patients have access to documented quality care. It means information must flow easily and accurately from one doctor to another. It means we must treat the patient medically, psychologically and spiritually.
Can we achieve this optimistic goal? Perhaps—if we focus our resources not just on the next new treatment but also on listening to patients and families. Personalized medicine is about more than a gene test. It is about caring for patients with their individual needs in mind. When we do this, we demonstrate that we really care in the best sense of the word.
—Len Lichtenfeld, MD, is deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.