Thanks to the enormous scientific advances made by the Human Genome Project, as well as the genomic technologies that are helping us understand disease on a molecular level, we are experiencing a new era of individualized patient care. Imagine if your doctor could predict disease long before you showed any symptoms? Or if you could be treated based your unique genetic makeup? These are the goals of personalized medicine—customizing care that affords you the best chances of surviving and perhaps even preventing disease.
One area of personalized medicine that has seen great progress is the treatment of cancer. By conducting genomic analysis on a biopsy of a lung cancer tumor, for example, we can learn about how the tumor’s unique characteristics and behavior. This can help doctors select chemotherapies tailored specifically to that tumor. In fact, such treatments are already helping thousands of cancer patients. The treatment of many other diseases and conditions has also improved, thanks to the development of genetic tests that can pinpoint genes that play a role in the responses different people have to certain drugs.
The LGRC is committed to developing a similar personalized approach to the prediction, diagnosis, and treatment of chronic lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and interstitial lung disease (ILD). Cancer researchers have long had access to tumor samples removed from patients during surgery. Thanks to our collaboration with the Lung Tissue Research Consortium (LTRC), we now have access to a large library of tissue samples generously provided by patients with lung disease. The DNA and RNA in these samples serve as the essential starting point for all of our studies.
Our goals for developing personalized medicine for lung disease are to:
• increase our understanding of the causes of lung disease;
• determine who is at risk of developing chronic lung diseases;
• identify and treat disease early on, even before symptoms appear; and
• develop better treatments tailored to an individual’s unique genetic profile.
Personalized medicine holds the promise of improving the management of lung disease, and the LGRC is working to turn this promise into reality.