Magazine article Newsweek

Precision Medicine for Cancer Care Costs a Fortune but Could Save Money in the Long Run; Expert Michael Caligiuri on Who's Going to Make Money on the Coming Cancer Treatments

Magazine article Newsweek

Precision Medicine for Cancer Care Costs a Fortune but Could Save Money in the Long Run; Expert Michael Caligiuri on Who's Going to Make Money on the Coming Cancer Treatments

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Caligiuri

Scientists decoded the DNA of the first human genome in 2003 after a 13-year process that cost $2.6 billion. Today, we can "sequence" the genome of a cancerous tumor in a day for $1,500 to $3,000.

Decoding the genome may be affordable, but the cost of understanding what it means to cancer treatment has exploded. Piecing together the elements of the genome that really matter in medicine and matching that learning with carefully designed new biopharmaceuticals and new opportunities for older drugs requires a hefty investment in research.

As technologies have evolved, our view of the economics of life-changing genetic tests have become more nuanced. It is important to show not only how these tests can guide the decisions we make with our patients but also how additional testing can bring value to the health care system. If spending money on testing can wring out needless care elsewhere by ensuring the right patients get the right medication, or better still prevent disease, even high-priced tests can be a bargain. As Mary Lasker, the great advocate behind the successful passing of the National Cancer Act in 1971 by former president Richard Nixon, said: "If you think research is expensive, try disease."

What makes next-generation genetic testing so appealing is that it brings us closer to the holy grail of medicine: getting better care without spending more money. There is no worse outcome--for the patient, for the physician, for the health care system--than the delivery of a drug that provides nothing but side effects and expenses. …

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