A change has occurred in medicine. Just wanted to make note.
A couple of years ago, on the 10th anniversary of the mapping of the human genome, the national media issued a number of stories lamenting what they saw as the irrelevance of that achievement for medical patients. I won’t list the bylines here, but there were a number of these stories, all quick to conclude that little was being done in the field and that the public hadn’t benefited. Well, I guess you have to be a little more patient with science… it doesn’t happen on a timetable and things don’t fit into nice little decade-sized packages. Now, less than three years later, Mayo Clinic announced today that its Individualized Medicine Clinic was open for business. That it was taking referrals — from physicians, from other institutions, and self-referrals from patients themselves. What do I mean? I mean 20 physicians, plus dozens of other team members — technicians, bioinformatics specialists, genetic counselors, and others — are working up patient cases on all three Mayo campuses. Actually over 30 patients have already been seen, so there’s a bit of a track record.
How is this different from what other institutions are doing? A number of centers are doing genomic screening, yes, but if you look into it, they are doing this under a research protocol, perhaps as a clinical trial. In other words, as experimental medicine. This is not that. The Individualized Medicine Clinic has standardized genomic medicine – full individualized sequencing and analysis – as a regular program of Mayo’s clinical practice. The Individualized Medicine Clinic is currently seeing two types of cases: hard to diagnose and treat cancer patients; and “diagnostic odyssey” cases – patients who have a set of symptoms, but no diagnosis and there is some indication the problem may be heritable. (Mayo will continue to conduct a range of genomic research as part of its Center for Individualized Medicine and you’ll be seeing plenty of news about that as well.)
The Doctor Is In. So — my point at the start of this post, was that something had changed in medicine. Genomics is now part of the practice of medicine. It’s not just part of research and it’s certainly not science fiction. We are beginning to regularly treat people based on their individualized genomic differences. So while it’s still reasonable to say genomics is part of medicine’s future — please pass the word that it’s also part of the present.