Genetic Testing – How it’s Changing Health Care

Treating the biology, not the anatomy

Genes are the DNA instructions of life, inherited from our biologic mother and father; they determine everything from hair color, to skin tone, and even our personality. Genetic testing utilizes revolutionary lab technology to unravel genetic code, revealing our own predisposition to a wide variety of diseases like cancer, diabetes, and stroke. These new gene based technologies allow doctors and scientists to more fully understand the composition of disease. Since 2003, genetic research and testing has completely changed the healthcare industry, resulting in more accurate diagnoses, improved patient care, and overall cost savings.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a 62 year old world renowned surgeon, developer, and entrepreneur, is essentially bringing genetic testing from “oil lamp to electricity” in the 21st century. Not to be underestimated, at the age of 23 Dr. Soon-Shiong was making a name for himself as an accomplished surgeon. Not long after, he established two major pharmaceutical companies here in the U.S. and later created a life-saving cancer medication called Abraxane, which is now widely used to treat pancreatic cancer. Dr. Soon-Shiong has also developed a massive “real-time” data-sharing infrastructure that is being used in hospitals across the nation to assist in diagnosis and treatment, all based on a person’s genetic roadmap. Having dedicated nearly half his fortune (his net-worth being slightly over $12 billion) to genetic research, Dr. Soon-Shiong has great hopes of making this technology a standard in healthcare; ultimately turning the American healthcare system completely around, and for the better.
For decades researchers have been outwitted by certain diseases. Thanks to new technology developed by Soon-Shiong, we now understand much more about what our genetic code is dictating. Historically, a patient would be treated based on the location of the disease in the body and what symptoms were present. We now know that a “one size fits all” approach is outdated, and doing harm. By unraveling a person’s DNA we are able to see the molecular footprint of a disease and understand what makes it unique to that person. Not only is the patient receiving better quality care, they are also able understand more about what their body is programmed to do. In other words, we are now treating the biology, not the anatomy.

“The patient is empowered because we now have discovered that cancer (for example) is a slew of rare diseases at the molecular level. The goal is to bring this breakthrough science to the delivery and payment sides. Then we have an opportunity to transform healthcare”, (1) says Soon-Shiong. Costs of genetic testing will go down as more patients utilize this option. And as patients are more accurately diagnosed, costs associated with inappropriate treatment will decrease. Which means patients will no longer have to “try out” a medication or treatment that is ineffective, thus cutting down unnecessary healthcare expenses.

We live in a unique era for science and medicine where the technology is progressing faster than the people that are meant to use it. In order for the idea of a precise genetically-tested diagnosis to be successful, hospitals must recruit leaders and scientists who understand 21st century science, and according to Soon-Shiong, “have the scale and capacity to manage clinical care with excellence. Science is moving so fast. Unless organizations tie clinical care to the movement of new science, they will become dinosaurs”.

 

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