Charting a Path to Prevention
Personalized medicine offers new hope for cancer patients, but those such a significant illness are not the only ones who can benefit from it. Dr. Keith Stewart joined us for an eye-opening discussion about how his team at the Mayo Clinic is exploring the possibilities of using precision medicine for the prevention and maintenance of a “healthy genome” in people who have not yet developed a disease.
Listen to the full episode above to learn more and download the transcript here.
At the beginning of the conversation, Dr. Stewart shares what drew him to his sphere of work, and where he thinks we are currently in the industry of individualized medicine through genome sequencing. He believes that we are still in the earliest days of this branch of medicine, which is certain to evolve tremendously over the next few decades.
Dr. Stewart would rather focus on prevention and maintenance of a ‘healthy genome’ in people that still haven’t developed a significant illness by using personalized medicine.
At the Mayo Clinic they have moved from diagnosing and treating diseases to using genomics to predict and prevent. This especially applies to diseases directly related to the genome, such as cancer, leukemia, lymphomas, and various rare hereditary diseases that are hard to diagnose.
Dr. Stewart and other team members from at the Mayo Clinic are also involved in the ‘All of Us’ project, aimed at sequencing the genome of one million Americans as a part of a longitudinal study on big sample genome state. The purpose of the project is to find ways to improve the health of the nation. He also shares some valuable information on Mayo Clinic GeneGuide, a personal genetic test that provides a wide array of information hiding in people’s genomes, such as proclivities for certain diseases, medication responses, health traits, and others. It offers a wealth of health knowledge that one can derive for themselves—knowledge that is usually hidden until too late. In this sense, Dr. Stewart believes that healthy people should also pay more attention to their genetic condition as a way to take better care and ambush potential negative developments in the future. At the Mayo Clinic they have plans to expand their scope of gene sequencing tremendously, in the numbers of hundreds of thousands of people.
According to the Dr. Stewart, it is becoming increasingly common to undertake genome sequencing tests as a preventive means to detect and treat potentially devastating diseases, but it is still not often enough to live up to its true potential. He believes that health insurance and other companies should do more to support routine testing in this manner, because the potential benefits are enormous compared to the costs.
Listen to the full episode above.
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About Our Guest
Keith Stewart, M.B., Ch.B, MBA, is a consultant in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic. He currently serves as the Carlson and Nelson Endowed Director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine and is recognized as the Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Professor of Cancer Research. Dr. Stewart’s current responsibilities at Mayo Clinic relate to the application of genomics to human health across the spectrum of discovery, translation and application to clinical practice.
Dr. Stewart has served in several leadership roles across both research and clinical practice at Mayo Clinic, including as dean for research in Arizona, and as a member of the Arizona Executive Operations Team and Clinical Practice Committees. He has served on multiple boards for both non-profit and commercial organizations, including currently as a Non-Executive Board member with Genomics England and the Scientific Advisory Boards of Helix Inc. and Veritas Genetics, Inc.
His own research interest is in the genomics and biology of myeloma and he has led numerous clinical trials of new drugs for this blood cancer. Dr. Stewart has over 25 years of sustained national funding for a laboratory research program and has authored over 300 journal articles and other written publications. He has served as an associate editor of Blood and ASH Clinical News.