By Paul Hudson, President, AstraZeneca US and Executive Vice President, North America
As science continues to evolve in the 21st century, medicine, treatments and diagnostics are getting smarter and more targeted to patient groups and individual patients. The healthcare system is moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to treating diseases and toward an increased focus on personalized healthcare, which tailors treatments to patients as effectively and efficiently as possible.
At AstraZeneca, we’re working relentlessly to do our part to provide more targeted treatments for patients – from the molecules in our pipeline to our partnerships throughout the healthcare sector.
Our medicines and our pipeline of new molecules are the foundation of everything we do. We know that identifying patient subgroups in which a medicine is most effective can help doctors make faster, more accurate treatment decisions. As patients continue to become increasingly involved in their own care, we’re seeing a need for innovative approaches to better deliver personalized, end-to-end treatments. This allows us to reach the right patients in the right ways at the right times with the right medicines – an important factor in successfully treating some of the world’s most deadly diseases. Investing in targeted therapies also provides the best economic value and cost savings for the healthcare system because the treatments reach precisely the patients they are intended to help, with the greatest amount of efficacy.
In order to determine the most appropriate treatment for patients, we need to be able to analyze in rapid form. At AstraZeneca, more than 80 percent of the molecules in our pipeline have been evaluated for their personalized healthcare potential. We estimate that nearly half of our product launches between now and 2020 will use a companion diagnostic to target the patients most likely to benefit. What happens to each individual patient is becoming more relevant, and we’re facing a situation for the first time where information and data are overlapping with medicines and research & development.
For example, tumor testing has long been the gold standard for determining a patient’s epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) status, which is seen in many patients with non-small cell lung cancer. However, many patients do not have a tumor sample or have one of insufficient quality to test. To reach these patients, AstraZeneca is collaborating to develop blood-based testing methods that detect minute quantities of DNA that can, in turn, detect mutations like EGFR.
Put simply, blood-based testing is faster, cheaper and less invasive for patients. Over time, these personalized approaches to care could have the potential to improve the overall survival rate of patients treated for cancer, giving us the potential to change outcomes for patients on a meaningful scale.
Health System Benefits
More targeted medicines and tests alone are not the only answer. In order to forge new approaches and generate the most value from innovation, we need to recognize that no one company has all the good ideas; it takes multiple partnerships and extensive collaboration to reach our goals. Partnerships are helping to drive more intense value and delivery across the industry, as highly skilled drug development teams and diagnostic partners are working with the world’s regulatory authorities to help shape the treatment pathways for personalized healthcare and support smart clinical trial design.
Innovative technologies allow for laser-guided patient focus. We can develop integrated biomarker and diagnostic plans that will speed development and deliver personalized treatments for patients. For example, Lung Cancer Master Protocol (Lung-MAP), for which AstraZeneca is a pioneering contributor, serves as a way to use genomic profiling to match patients to one of several investigational drugs that are designed to target genomic alternations found to be driving the growth of their cancer.
Working together – with researchers, regulators, payers, policymakers and key stakeholders – we can deliver more effective treatments on a patient-by-patient basis that will ultimately improve health for individuals, families and society as whole.
Paul Hudson is President, AstraZeneca US and Executive Vice President, North America. You can see him speak on medical research at Bloomberg here.