EMBC 2011 -Keynote (Women in Engineering Program) Re-engineering the War on Cancer: A Call to Action for Personalized Medicine -Mara G. Aspinall
SSpeaker Mara G. Aspinall, MBA - On-Q-ity, Inc. discusses cancer research, treatment and care has come a long way in the last 50 years, dominating the science in industry and academia. Yet, current cancer treatments are effective only 22 percent of the time and almost half of all patients do not survive five years. Personalized medicine through the use of diagnostic tools can make the difference, but needs to be implemented in the forefront of medicine. There have been many discussions, meetings and plans to make this happen, but the questions remain: Is the science ready? Are the diagnostic tools reliable and reproducible? Do the regulatory agencies have the necessary framework to move personalized medicine products forward? And, will physicians incorporate these new advances into their clinical practice? Personalized medicine can save lives. Through the human genome project and advances in diagnostic and imaging technology, we now know more about disease than ever before. Every disease area can now be divided into more and more precise sub-types. The challenge now is making those sub-types clinically meaningful. First we need to instill confidence in physicians and payors to support the diagnostic tools available today. Second we need to embrace new technology to understand not just what disease sub-type a patient has but how it progresses and recedes. Third we need to create new tools that will not only improve diagnosis for an individual patient but monitor that patient throughout the course of their disease to ensure that their treatment is at maximal efficacy. Through advanced diagnostics, we can move the treatment paradigm from one that is organ-based (how to treat breast cancer) to one that is mechanism- based (how to treat Her-2 based cancers). The Call to Action is clear we must embrace diagnostics to move the needle in personalized medicine from "concept" to reality in disease management, most notably in cancer. We must replace the "trial and error" and "watch and wait" with "target and succeed". In this talk, I will discuss the successes and failures of personalized medicine to date and how we must make some structural changes in our health care system to ensure its success. Mara Aspinall is the Chief Executive Officer of On-Q-ity, an innovative personalized medicine company focused on transforming cancer lifecycle management through diagnostics. On-Q-ity is developing diagnostics that will identify the unique characteristics of an individual's cancer, predict the response to therapy and monitor the efficacy of treatment in multiple cancer types. On-Q-ity leverages two core technologies: Microfluidic chip technology to capture, enumerate, and characterize circulating tumor cells (CTC) from a patient's blood and protein biomarkers to predict treatment response. Before being recruited to On-Q-ity, Mara was previously president of Genzyme Genetics, a leading provider of testing in the oncology and reproductive markets. Under Mara's leadership, Genzyme Genetics set the standard for quality genetics testing in the industry, while profitably growing at an unprecedented pace. She transformed the business, expanding its scope and reach to become one of the nation's largest diagnostic laboratories. Before that, Mara served as president of Genzyme Pharmaceuticals. An active participant in the healthcare policy community, Mara is a Director of the Personalized Medicine Coalition (PMC), a founding Director of the European Personalized Medicine organization (EPEMED), as well as an active member of the Federal Secretary of Health and Human Services' Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society. Mara currently holds an appointment as lecturer in health care policy at Harvard Medical School and is a Director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Mara co- authored, "Realizing the Promise of Personalized Medicine" in the Harvard Business Review and, most recently, was named one of the 2010 "100 Most Inspiring People in Life Sciences" by PharmaVOICE Magazine. Mara started her business career at Bain & Company, an international strategic consulting firm. She earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and her Bachelors in International Relations from Tufts University.
Cancer research, treatment and care has come a long way in the last 50 years, dominating the science in industry and academia.