Are We Asking Too Much of Genomics in Cancer Research? Tony Letai, Dana Farber


Tony Letai, Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Bio and Contact Info

Chapters:

00:00 Most patients not benefiting from precision medicine

07:18 When you’re a hammer . . .

15:31 The Functional Society for Precision Medicine

20:15 New tools make a new approach possible: automation, cell culture, scanners

23:12 In 10 years functional assays in every lab

It’s a question we’ve asked on the program before. Are we over relying on the genomics route getting us to biomedical research paradise? Should we be putting more eggs in other baskets?

After combing through lots of clinical trials data, Tony Letai of Dana Farber and the Broad, found that a majority of cancer patients have not benefited from precision medicine. On today’s show he says we need to rethink our approach to cancer research and treatment.

“I think we have a block in our minds in cancer biology about the rules--there are some rules we’re playing by that I don't think we need to play by. I think we can cheat,” he says.

Tony says one of these “unspoken” rules is that we need to use "initial conditions” got from a cancer cell that has been biopsied and killed and broken down for it’s parts, particularly for its “bag of DNA.” Today Tony advocates for an additional approach to genomics, the revival of an older tool, that of screening the live cancer cells against all available drugs. He calls this “functional precision medicine” or a combinational approach, and believes that in 10 years these functional assays will be standard of care in labs everywhere.

Recently we did a show with the CEO of Karius who is bringing sequencing to the world of infectious diseases. What Tony wants to do is bring more of the world of microbiology and cell culture from infectious disease over to the world of cancer treatment.

We have heard of others doing this, as Tony acknowledges. A couple years back we featured Krister Wennerberg from FIMM and last year a private company in Seattle doing something similar. Tony says he has founded a new society to provide network support for this new group called the SFPM or Society for Fuctional Precision Medicine. We finish up at 27 minutes.



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