Many Americans Are Unaware of the Promise of Targeted, ‘Personalized’ Medicine

By Dennis Thompson | HealthDay | Medical science has made tremendous advances in “personalized medicine” — drugs that fight cancer and other diseases by boosting the immune system or targeting specific genetic traits. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter benefited from one of these drugs, Keytruda (pembrolizumab), which successfully beat back his brain cancer by ramping up his immune […]

By Dennis Thompson | HealthDay |

Medical science has made tremendous advances in “personalized medicine” — drugs that fight cancer and other diseases by boosting the immune system or targeting specific genetic traits.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter benefited from one of these drugs, Keytruda (pembrolizumab), which successfully beat back his brain cancer by ramping up his immune system.

But the American public is still struggling to understand the implications of these new targeted treatments, a new HealthDay/Harris Poll has found.

A large majority (71%) of Americans are unfamiliar with personalized medicine, the survey found.

Among those who are familiar with the concept, nearly half (49%) don’t understand that this new type of therapy is typically more successful, with fewer side effects, compared to other treatments.

On the other hand, most (62%) didn’t realize that the cost of the drugs will be significantly higher than other treatments.

The online survey of over 2,000 adults was conducted Nov. 15-19.

“Very few Americans know a lot about personalized medicine but, nevertheless, people are excited about it, particularly regarding its potential to save lives and revolutionize health care,” said Deana Percassi, managing director of The Harris Poll’s public relations research practice.

Personalized medicine, also called precision medicine, uses genetic profiling and specific knowledge of a person’s body to optimize therapies.

For example, there’s a drug called Lynparza (olaparib) that treats people with advanced breast and ovarian cancers caused by mutations of the BRCA gene. The drug blocks an enzyme and makes it more likely for cancerous cells to die off more quickly.

In an advance for the field, last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a drug for a treatment of a wide range of cancers based on a shared mutation. The drug, Vitrakvi (larotrectinib), can treat thyroid, lung, and head and neck cancers caused by a common genetic factor.

Read more at HealthDay.